Thursday 22 March 2018

Taxi driver hit by drunk motorist was 'pulled from vehicle 30 seconds before it went up in flames'

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Fiona Ferguson

A taxi driver whose car was hit head on by a drunk driver in Co Kildare was pulled from his vehicle thirty seconds before it went up in flames, a court has heard.

The accused Sergejs Sluncevs (37) had been drinking heavily before he tried to drive home from his Christmas party and veered across the road crashing straight into an oncoming taxi.

Dublin Circuit Criminal Court heard Sluncevs had initially taken a lift home from the party but discovered he had left his keys behind and after being dropped back to his car made the “life changing mistake” to drive himself home instead.

Sluncevs, of Straffan Manor, Turnings, Straffan, pleaded guilty to dangerous driving causing serious bodily harm at Dublin Road, Celbridge, Co Kildare on December 21, 2012.

Judge Melanie Greally adjourned sentencing until July 15 next to allow her consider the case and read a victim impact statement handed into court.

Garda Padraig Murphy told Tony McGillicuddy BL, prosecuting, that at about 1am the taxi driver saw a car coming towards him with full beams on. The car then suddenly swerved onto his side of the road and crashed into him head on.

The taxi driver, whose leg was caught inside the car, was assisted by a number of people who helped him from the vehicle and reassured him until an ambulance arrived. He suffered injuries to his leg and arms as well as fractured ribs and chest plate.

Another driver described how, prior to the crash, he had seen a car behind him driving erratically before it overtook at speed and pulled straight back in front of him, so close that he had to brake. He said he had been doing the speed limit and this car “left him for dead.”

This witness said he saw the car then crash head on with the taxi and drive it completely off the road into the ditch. he stopped and helped to pull the taxi driver from his car. He said within thirty seconds of the man being pulled clear the car went up in flames.

Gda Murphy said when he came upon the scene he found the Audi A4, which had been driven by Sluncevs, in the centre of the road with significant damage to the front. He found the other car, a Ford Mondeo, off the road in a hedgerow, also significantly damaged and almost burnt out.

Sluncevs told gardai he had been at his Christmas party and had a lot to drink. He said he had initially taken a lift home but remembered he had left his keys in his own car and asked to be dropped back. His friends tried to take his keys but he insisted on driving.

He said he did not remember anything else until the crash and seeing flames.

Gda Murphy agreed with Martin Dully BL, defending, that Sluncevs, who has five previous convictions for minor road traffic offences related to one incident, was very frank about the circumstances leading up to the crash.

He said he had not intended to drive until he discovered his keys were missing and he made this “life changing mistake” due to consumption of alcohol. He submitted his conduct was out of character and he was not a heavy drinker.

Counsel said Sluncevs accepted his conduct was reckless and life changing and he was remorseful and regretful for his actions. He wished to apologise to the court and the injured party.

Mr Dully said Sluncevs had a good work history in the construction industry and worked long hours. He submitted the lengthy disqualification he faced would have an adverse effect on his ability to work.

He asked the court to consider alternatives to an immediate custodial sentence based on his previous record, his remorse and co-operation.

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