A MAN was jailed for four years yesterday for causing a high-speed crash which left a female passenger in a coma for nine months -- and unable to use her limbs, talk or eat when she awoke.
Lydia Branley, of Largydonnell, Co Leitrim, had previously been employed as an aviation radio officer. Now she can't move a muscle, speak or eat, but the 26-year-old's brain is otherwise fully functional.
Yesterday, Martin Kearney (31) was given a six-year jail sentence -- with the final two suspended -- at Roscommon Circuit Court after admitting dangerous driving causing harm.
Judge Anthony Hunt said he didn't recall anybody being "so seriously and tragically maimed as a result of a road accident".
Earlier, the court heard Lydia -- in a victim impact statement read by her sister Andrea -- describe how her life had become a nightmare when she was a front-seat passenger in a car driven by Kearney at 94mph.
She said when she came out of a coma nine months after the accident she was "horrified" to discover she lost the use of her limbs and cannot talk or eat. Her dream to travel the world had been destroyed.
Kearney was driving a BMW 3 series with a 3.2 litre engine on the night -- shortly after his driving licence was returned to him half-way through a five-year driving ban.
He and a rear-seat male passenger were thrown 10 metres in the crash when he lost control turning off a main road onto a slip road and the car skidded 114 metres.
The car tumbled over two barriers and rolled another 100 metres across grass and struck a pole before landing on its roof.
Lydia was trapped inside and was freed after rescuers used cutting equipment.
Kearney, of Farranoo, Ballina, was also banned from driving for 20 years yesterday.
Lydia, sitting in a wheelchair with members of her family standing close by, was there to hear the sentence.
Judge Hunt said she was successful in her education and in her chosen career.
"After this accident her mind is still present but her body almost has ceased to function," he said. "Anybody who heard the evidence would appreciate the devastation brought about by Mr Kearney's actions."