Sunday 25 August 2019

'I was on the verge of death' - Six years for motorist who badly injured two brothers in €350 'wreck of a car'

Stock picture
Stock picture

Greg Harkin

A MOTORIST who left two pals with life-changing injuries after a drink-driving crash in a €350 ‘wreck of a car’ has been jailed for six years.

Seamus O’Donnell, (27), from Oillean Teora, Crolly, Co Donegal, pleaded guilty at Letterkenny Circuit Criminal Court today to dangerous driving causing serious bodily harm to brothers Sean and Liam Ryan in a crash outside Dungloe at 5.35am on October 5, 2014.

Judge John O’Hagan said repeated comments from him and continued coverage in the press about road traffic incidents in Donegal continued to go unheeded.

“Like a lot of cases in Donegal is a disaster for everybody,” said the judge.

“How long do I and my colleague have to keep beating the drum to persuade young people to take control and responsibility. The press advertise each and every tragedy which occurs. Who listens to either me or them?”

Gda Colm MacIntyre told the court that he was called to the scene of the two-vehicle crash.

He said O’Donnell’s Toyota Avensis ended upside down in a ditch after the crash and O’Donnell was arrested on suspicion of drink-driving. The Ryan brothers were rushed to Letterkenny hospital for treatment before being transferred to hospitals in Dublin.

Gda MacIntyre said he later recovered CCTV from a pub in Loughanure which showed O’Donnell had drank six pints there before leaving with a carry-out at 1.47am.

Witnesses later recalled seeing O’Donnell drive his car at speed on roads in the area prior to the collision with a motorist driving an Audi A3.

In a victim impact statement Sean Ryan said he was later told he was “on the verge of death”.

He said he was put into an induced coma and doctors had deemed him “not compatible with life. They thought I would not survive and I would not survive any surgical procedures.”

He said he suffered horrific head injuries, lost part of his skull and part of his right front skull is still missing.

He continued to suffer memory loss, social anxiety and leak of fluid from his brain.

His brother Liam suffered a broken pelvis, broken leg, multiple cuts and bruises and he suffered post traumatic stress.

The court heard both brothers had moved to Thurles, Co Tipperary, after they recovered from their injuries. Both men had been best friends of O’Donnell, a trainee welder and farm worker.

Judge John O’Hagan said O’Donnell, who had a previous conviction for drink-driving in 2010, had bought a “€350 wreck of a car”.

He said the accused had been drinking, had no insurance or NCT certificate and the consequences of his actions had been “absolutely catastrophic”.

The judge said the case was one reason why car insurance premiums are rising.

“Why do insurance premiums go up? People drive without insurance and the insurance companies have to pay up anyway and those who do pay contribute to that compensation,” he said.

The judge added: “In the case of Sean Ryan, he literally had his face smashed in and it had to be re-constructed by the excellent medical people in our hospitals. They literally wired his skull back together again. What happened to him is never going to go away.

“I have heard his story so many times here in Donegal. But you can’t put the clock back. It cannot be undone.”

The judge said he accepted O’Donnell was deeply remorseful for his actions, had pleaded guilty at an early stage and was taking action to deal with his addiction to alcohol.

He said he was mindful that the Court of Appeal had doubled the sentence he had given Shaun Kelly he killed eight people in a car crash in Inishowen in 2010, from four years with two suspended to eight years with four suspended.

Unlike the Kelly case, he said, O’Donnell was a drink-driver driving without insurance.

He sentenced O’Donnell to six years in prison for dangerous driving causing serious bodily harm, suspending the last three years of the sentence.

He also imposed concurrent sentences of six months each for driving without insurance and drink-driving and banned O’Donnell from driving for ten years.

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