Anthony Long drove home after a cocktail of alcohol and cocaine -- his decision cost two men their lives
TWO mothers pleaded with motorists to drive safely after hearing that the drunk man who killed their two sons was driving "like a bat out of hell" on the wrong side of the road.
Anthony Long (29) sobbed as he was jailed for five years for dangerous driving causing the deaths of Brendan Donnelly (24) and Lee Salkeld (26) on October 26, 2009.
Cork Circuit Criminal Court heard the father of two had been drinking since 3pm the previous day before attending a pub fancy-dress party -- and had consumed 11 cans and bottles of beer, seven pints of beer, two vodkas, three shots of After Shock and a line of cocaine before attempting to drive home after a row with his wife.
He then drove his Ford Mondeo head-on into the Volkswagen Polo carrying the victims and their two partners, Laura Connolly and Kate Flynn, on the main Waterford-Cork road.
Long, of Leadington, Leamlara, Co Cork, then walked away from the scene, leaving the two men dying in their car. He travelled on foot for seven miles along a back road towards his home before being located by gardai.
He initially told officers another man was driving. After being told the two men had died, he admitted he was behind the wheel.
The mothers of the two victims yesterday said their entire lives were destroyed by the reckless actions of Long, who had previous convictions for drink driving and speeding.
Mr Donnelly's mother, Christina, said she now wore a lock of her son's hair around her neck -- and carried a pair of his old socks in her handbag as a memento.
"When I sit by Brendan's final resting place, I ring up his old (mobile) number knowing that it won't be answered but I listen to his voice telling me to leave a message," she said.
"We would appeal to anyone thinking of getting behind the wheel of a car to think if they are capable of doing so -- life is so fragile."
Mr Salkeld's mother, Sandra Purcell, said she attempted to commit suicide after her son's death -- and would never recover from the loss of her only son.
"He (Long) may as well have loaded a gun and killed Lee," she told the court. "Lee's death has nearly destroyed me -- this man's cruel act has caused us such terrible heartache. I have scars that will last a lifetime."
Ms Flynn said in a statement read out by gardai that she "lost her soulmate" and her daughter, Sasha, who was five months old at the time of the crash, would grow up without getting to know her dad. "I have to look into Sasha's eyes and know that she will never get to know her daddy," she said.
"What hurts the most -- physical injuries and emotional pain aside -- is that the man who is responsible for killing Lee and Brendan . . . left us all on the side of the road for dead.
"He did not try to help us once. That could have made a difference between life and death for us. He walked away like he had just hit a dog," she said.
Ms Flynn described Long as "a coward" for his actions that morning. Mr Salkeld had asked her to marry him -- but she was instead forced to place a ring on his finger as he lay in his coffin.
Ms Connolly said she felt "cheated and robbed" by the deaths. "To be trapped in a car with your partner dead beside you is not something you can ever (forget) about."
Long sobbed as he told the court he wished he could turn the clock back.
"I will never forgive myself for what I have done. The guilt and self-loathing will never describe how I feel about myself every day. I am truly sorry for all the suffering I have caused," he said.
Mr Donnelly and Mr Salkeld, who were both from Co Waterford, were with their partners and en route to catch a flight from Cork Airport for a city break in Amsterdam in the Netherlands when the tragedy occurred.
The break was to celebrate the birth of Mr Salkeld's first child, Sasha, and Mr Donnelly's purchase of a new house just a few weeks beforehand.
Judge Patrick Moran jailed Long for five years and disqualified him from driving for 15 years.
The court heard Long's wife, Mary, now faces having to sell the family home as a result of his actions.