Drunk driver who killed a pensioner and seriously injured two gardaí avoids jail
A drunk driver who killed a pensioner and seriously injured two gardaí avoided a jail sentence at Galway Circuit Court on Thursday.
Father-of-two Adrian Nestor (44) from Kilcolgan, Co Galway, pleaded guilty to drink driving and dangerous driving causing the death of William ‘Liam’ McDonnell (66) on the N18 road outside Ardrahan, Co Galway, on February 1, 2016.
Mr McDonnell had gone missing from his nursing home in Gort at 5pm on January 31.
Gardaí Peter Murtagh and Sharon Casserly located him just outside Ardrahan before 12.30pm on February 1.
They pulled in to assist him as he was on his "knees and hands on the hard shoulder". As all three made their way back to the patrol car, "they were struck without warning" by a silver Audi, driven by Nestor. The force of the collision threw Mr McDonnell into a nearby field, Gda Murtagh was knocked into a ditch and Gda Casserly was found lying on the grass verge.
Mr McDonnell was pronounced dead at the scene while the two gardaí were taken to University Hospital Galway.
Garda Superintendent Sean Glynn gave evidence that Gda Casserly "was screaming in agony" following the incident.
Mr Nestor told gardaí he was coming from a wake in Ardrahan, and provided a blood sample which had 272mg of alcohol per 100ml of blood.
The court heard that Gda Murtagh received head injuries requiring 16 staples, a broken arm and ligament damage to his knees and ankles.
Gda Casserly suffered "multiple fractures" for which she is still undergoing treatment, including two broken legs, spinal injuries and facial injuries.
Gda Casserly gave evidence of her injuries and told how she had to cancel her wedding as a result of the collision.
"I spent every day in pain, questioning ‘why?’" she said. "I am covered, head to toe, in scars. [My partner] David and I had been engaged to be married on June 3 of 2016. During my time in hospital, I had countless days of self-consuming thoughts of whether I would be able to walk up the aisle," said a tearful Gda Casserly.
"I had to prioritise my rehabilitation over my wedding because of the reckless actions of a drunk driver. My wedding day was taken from me and I find it hard to plan it again."
Gda Murtagh said he had to be fitted with an eight-inch plate leaving an eight-inch scar, whiplash, arm, back and neck injuries. He said, however: "I constantly think about Liam McDonnell and feel I have failed in my duty to protect him, despite it not being my fault."
A victim impact statement from Mr McDonnell's former wife, Katherine, was read into the court:
"I'm not looking for anything except clemency for the driver, as jail will not help his young family and won't bring Liam back."
His daughters, Mary and Joanna, said that their father loved music, writing, art and the simple things but that he "loved his two daughters more than anything".
Mary spoke of leaving for New York not knowing she would ever see her father again.
"That goodbye really meant goodbye forever. I was in Queens when I got the 4.00am call. The flight home was six hours of torture. My dad had a hard life, he struggled with mental illness had addiction issues and had been homeless for years before he died. I thought that in the nursing home that he would be looked after, that he would be safe. I hoped it would be a new start for him after a life of pain and suffering but his life was cut short and he was never given the chance," her statement read.
"Not only is our family broken even more than it already was, the Nestor family will be, too, and the Casserly family has, no doubt, been torn apart by this. I hope that no-one ever has to go through what we have endured."
Formerly a planner and buyer for a Galway-based company for 20 years, Mr Nestor said he was deeply sorry for what had happened.
Judge Rory McCabe said that a four-year sentence would have been appropriate but that justice would not be served by sending Mr Nestor to jail. He sentenced him to 240 hours’ of community service, banned him for three years from driving and fined him €1,000.