A MOTORIST has walked free from court after he admitted fleeing a car with seven passengers on board after he crashed, leaving one of them trapped inside.
Emlyn O’Donnell (30) has a string of previous convictions including one for biting a man’s ear off in a vicious attack.
Letterkenny District Court heard how O’Donnell drove at speed towards a roundabout in the Co Donegal town in the early hours of St Stephen’s Day 2011 despite pleas from his passengers for him to slow down.
Instead he accelerated, collided with the Dry Arch roundabout and his car was sent spinning into the air before rolling several times and landing on its side.
Gda Inspector Michael Harrison told the court that one woman was left trapped inside the black Renault Megane as O’Donnell ran from the scene.
“Six passengers were at the scene and a seventh was trapped inside the car,” said Insp Harrison.
“The passengers initially denied knowing who the driver was but later admitted it was O’Donnell.
“Passengers then told us that O’Donnell was driving at speed and completely ignored their pleas for him to slow down.
“The car shook and vibrated as it speeded up and hit the roundabout before going into the air, and rolled over several times before landing facing the opposite direction.”
The Inspector added: “One female passenger was trapped inside and had to be cut from the vehicle.
“It was an absolute miracle that no-one was killed and no-one suffered serious injuries.”
The court heard that O’Donnell’s girlfriend Heather McClean later reported that her car was stolen.
Insp Harrison said she withdrew the allegation recently and a charge of theft had been withdrawn.
O’Donnell, from Railway Court Apartments in Letterkenny, sat in court alongside Ms McClean as he admitted several charges relating to the incident.
His solicitor Ciaran O’Gorman said O’Donnell had since paid €1,500 to Ms McClean to repair damage to the vehicle.
“He had four passengers in the car and three other people got inside and Mr O’Donnell stupidly decided he would take the whole lot,” said Mr O’Gorman.
“As a result of this the car was overcrowded and he was unable to keep control of it.”
The solicitor appealed for leniency, saying his client had drink and drug addictions for which he was now receiving counselling.
He also said O’Donnell was a hard worker with the local Tidy Towns organisation.
Inspector Harrison told Judge Paul Kelly that O’Donnell had 36 previous convictions for firearms, knife, criminal damage and affray.
He had been jailed in 2010 for biting a man’s ear during a brawl outside a local nightclub.
Judge Kelly said O’Donnell’s decision to flee the scene was “an appalling response to the crash.”
He told him: “The has echoes of other tragic cases where large numbers of people end up in cars and which can result in multiple fatalities.
He sentenced O’Donnell to nine months in prison, suspended for two years, for dangerous driving and leaving the scene of an accident.
The judge also banned the unemployed man from driving for two years, fined him €350 and ordered him to take part in a driver behaviour course.
Judge Kelly told O’Donnell: “You are fortunate you are walking out of here and that won’t happen if you are before me again.”