Monday 5 December 2016

Victim (80) of hit-and-run: 'I am now a completely dependent person who can barely manage the simple every day things in life'

By Kathryn Hayes

Published 18/06/2015 | 18:18

The scene of the crash where a stolen Hyundai car knocked down two local men ending up hitting a car in the grounds of Parteen Pitch and Putt club in Co. Clare just 3 kms north of Limerick city.
The scene of the crash where a stolen Hyundai car knocked down two local men ending up hitting a car in the grounds of Parteen Pitch and Putt club in Co. Clare just 3 kms north of Limerick city.

AN 80 year-old man who suffered catastrophic injuries when a drunk driver ploughed into him and his two friends outside a pitch and putt course in Co Clare has described the devastating effects of his ordeal.

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Pensioner Eric Ryan, had just finished his weekly game of pitch and putt with his two friends in Parteen, when a car driven by 26 year old Michael Sheehan of Cliona Park, Moyross, Limerick, crashed into them on September 25 last year.

A convicted criminal, who was granted bail just three days before the incident, despite Garda objections, Sheehan was being pursued by Gardai at the time of the crash after a series of house burglaries in nearby Clonlara.

The 26-year-old drank eight cans of cider and a naggan of vodka earlier that day, his sentencing hearing at Limerick Circuit Court heard today.

The court heard how the 26-year-old drove around a sharp bend almost up on two wheels and crashed into Mr Ryan and his 77 year old friend Liam Barry.

The men were returning to their car about to go home along with another friend Dermot O'Brien who was also in his 70's, when Sheahan's red Hyundai Accent ploughed into them, pinning Mr Ryan to the ground.

Counsel for the State John O'Sullivan described how Sheahan "ran over" Mr Ryan's body as he fled the scene on foot.

The court heard how Mr Ryan who was 79 at the time, had to have his leg amputated as a result of the crash.

His pelvis was also crushed and his right shoulder badly injured so he is limited in learning how to walk again because of his lack of upper body strength.

His friend Liam Barry, a retired Garda, suffered a traumatic head injury but has since recovered well.

Sheahan pleaded guilty to dangerous driving causing serious injury to both men, as well as to a number of burglaries.

In a victim impact statement read out to the court, Mr Ryan a former inter county hurler for Limerick, said he had been a very fit and independent man, caring for his sick wife up to the accident.

"I have gone from being a 100% independent man and a carer of my wife and my home, to a completely dependent person who can barely manage the simple every day things in life that most of us take for granted like opening the door, going from one place to another, making a cup of tea, going to the toilet or having a shower."

"When I left home on September 25 2014, I never thought it was possibly going to be the last day I would ever play pitch and putt or see the upstairs of my home again, never again be independently able to take my grandchildren to feed the ducks and never be able to climb a ladder and clean the windows and maintain my home in the way I have done for the past 50 years."

The father of three adult children who spent four months in hospital and is still undergoing psychotherapy and counselling, described how his ordeal has accelerated his wife's health into rapid decline.

"The consequences of Michael Sheehan's reckless out of control and selfish actions have been utterly devastating for me and for my family.. He fled the scene without an iota of consideration for me and my two friends. At least he was able to run, I will never run again."

Judge Tom O Donnell said Mr. Ryan's victim impact statement was one of the most harrowing  he had heard.

He wanted time to consider the appropriate sentence, and to consider that these offences were committted while the accused man was on bail. Judge O'Donnell adjourned sentencing in the matter  until October 1.

Sheahan claimed he was driving at high speed because he was under duress, from an unidentified passenger in the car, who was a member of a drugs gang.

The prosecution said this was complete rubbish and a brazen lie.

 When called to the witness box Sheehan said he wrote a letter to Mr. Ryan apologising, and said he was deeply sorry.

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