Tuesday 20 February 2018

'I'm grieving for the body I had and the life I had' - former triathlete left paralysed

Vincent O'Driscoll at Cork Court today. Photo: Michael MacSweeney/Provision
Vincent O'Driscoll at Cork Court today. Photo: Michael MacSweeney/Provision
Ralph Riegel

Ralph Riegel

A HAULIER whose dangerous driving left a young cyclist living in "a nightmare of pain" was jailed for three years.

Judge Sean O'Donnabhain heard that lorry driver Tim Walsh (49) was informed two months prior to the Cork accident that there were 70 defects with his truck but he had done nothing to remedy them.

These included a broken side mirror which the judge said was instrumental in restricting his visibility as he overtook Vincent O'Driscoll's bike.

Mr O'Driscoll (31) was left with horrific life-changing injuries after being knocked off his bike by Walsh as he overtook him on the Cork-Macroom Road.

Walsh from Moneen, Glanworth, Co Cork admitted dangerous driving causing serious injury to Mr O'Driscoll 3km outside Macroom on the N22 road on August 7 2013.

Mr O'Driscoll was knocked off his bike and crushed beneath the lorry when Walsh overtook him while carrying a load of 42 tonnes of timber.

He was rushed to Cork University Hospital but his injuries were so severe he was not initially expected to survive.

Mr O'Driscoll's spinal column was crushed and he was left paralysed.

His pelvis was fractured, he had two broken hips, two broken legs and two crushed ankles.

Mr O'Driscoll, who is now in a wheelchair, also suffered liver failure, kidney failure, bowel damage and perforations to his bladder.

The young man now relies on a colostomy bag due to his severe bowel damage and also requires a catheter due to his injured bladder.

He was in a medically induced coma at Tallaght Hospital for one month.

Mr O'Driscoll said the pain and suffering he endured made him think about suicide.

"To be honest, the psychological side of it is nearly as bad as the physical side of it, if not worse. I used to get up in the morning and I used to be a happy person," he said.

"I had to wake up to a new body which I wasn't familiar with - it makes you feel a different person, it's going to take me a long time to get over, if I ever will."

"It makes me contemplate suicide. I've talked to my psychologist and she reckons that I'm not depressed but that I'm grieving...grieving for the body I had and the life I had."

The young man, who was supported in court by family and his girlfriend, said pain remains a huge issue.

"I still struggle with fairly severe pain especially in my feet. I can't sit out of the bed that long - I might last two to three hours in the wheelchair before I have to lie down on the bed," Mr O'Driscoll said.

The former triathlon athlete said his life has probably been shortened by between 15 and 30 years.

"I am a forgiving person and I understand that accidents do happen but accidents like mine could easily be avoided with a bit of patience by drivers," he said.

"I think my accident specifically could have been avoided. I think the truck driver was reckless in relation to my safety. He didn't give me a chance."

"He showed no understanding of road safety, for cyclists in particular. His split second decision to overtake me on that stretch of road has had a devastating effect on every aspect of my life."

Judge O'Donnabhain said it was "criminally negligent" for anyone to overtake a cyclist on that stretch of road.

However, he said such a manoeuvre was appalling in light of the defects in Walsh's truck.

The vehicle underwent Department of Environment inspection two months prior to the accident and 70 defects were found.

These included defects in the braking system, the lighting system and mirrors including a cracked near side mirror.

"To undertake it (the overtaking) in this type of truck with these defects beggars belief. This truck should never have been on the road that day. The accused knew it," the judge said.

He jailed Walsh for four years but agreed to suspend the final 12 months of the sentence.

The court was told that Walsh, who has worked all his life, was under immense business and personal pressure at the time.

He has been treated for depression since the accident.

Judge O'Donnabhain also disqualified him from driving for 15 years.

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