A DRUNK driver who killed a Castlegregory father of four while speeding, with drugs in his system, in a dangerously defective car has been sentenced to five years imprisonment at Tralee Circuit Court.
Nathan Courtney (29) of Scraggane, Castlegregory, appeared before Judge Catherine Staines at Tralee Circuit Criminal Court on Tuesday, when he pleaded guilty to dangerous driving causing the death of John Rohan between Castlegregory and Aughacasla on the main Tralee-to-Castlegregory road in the early hours of September 15, 2019.
Mr Courtney also pleaded guilty to driving while under the influence of alcohol and driving a dangerously defective vehicle.
The court heard that John Rohan – a 50-year-old landscape gardener with four children – suffered catastrophic injuries when he was struck by Nathan Courtney’s BMW, at around 2.30am, as he walked home having spent the previous few hours in Castlegregory, where he had gone to meet his son after finishing his day’s work.
The accident occurred only a short distance from the Rohan family’s home at Illauncaum.
Prosecution Barrister Tom Rice BL said that the day before the accident, September 14, Nathan Courtney had picked up his car from a mechanics, where it was undergoing repairs.
Despite being told by the mechanic that the car had three bald tyres and was in too dangerous a condition to drive, Mr Courtney insisted on taking it and said he would drop it back on September 17 so the repairs could be completed.
CCTV footage showed Mr Courtney driving the car around Castlegregory at various times prior to the accident.
Mr Rice told the court that following the fatal accident, a blood sample was taken from Nathan Courtney which showed he had a blood-alcohol level of 131 milligrammes of alcohol per 100 millilitres of blood, which is more than twice the legal limit.
The court heard the blood sample also contained traces of Methamphetamine, though a precise level could not be ascertained.
Based on an analysis of the crash site by the Garda Public Service Vehicle (PSV) Inspector, gardaí estimated that Nathan Courtney’s BMW was travelling at a speed of around 122 kilometres an hour when it struck John Rohan, the court heard.
The speed limit on the straight, unlit stretch of road where the collision occurred was 80km/h.
The PSV inspector also found that three tyres on Mr Courtney’s car were bald and “dangerously defective”.
Summing up the Prosecution’s case, Mr Rice told Judge Staines that the amount of alcohol in Nathan Courtney’s system was “well in excess of the legal limit”; that he was driving “far in excess of the speed limit” and that he knew he was driving a dangerously defective vehicle.
Mr Courtney admitted he was driving while drunk but denied he had drugs in his system and said he had not seen John Rohan due to the reflected glare from a road sign.
“He [Mr Courtney] ought to have seen the pedestrian and he ought to have taken evasive action,” said Mr Rice.
In two emotional victim-impact statements that were read to the court, John Rohan’s wife, children and siblings described how they continue to struggle to come to terms with his loss.
“Some may think that lives go on but for the last 1,010 days we’ve just been putting one foot in front of the other [trying to come to terms with the loss]” the Rohan family said.
“People say it gets easier. That’s not true”.
The family said they must pass the site of the crash every day and seeing it, every time, fills them with anxiety and huge sadness.
The family also said that seeing Nathan Courtney out socialising in Castlegregory just six nights after the fatal crash – and on “numerous” other nights – had been “deeply distressing”.
“Any remorse shown by him is purely self serving” said the Rohan family.
“I hope he realises now the pain and suffering he has caused our family”.
Defence Barrister Brian McInerney BL said his client – who had no previous convictions and worked as a deckhand on trawlers – had admitted to and addressed drink- and drug-addiction issues and that he “apologised unreservedly” and “took full responsibility for his actions, the damage done and the hurt he has caused”.
“He understands why they [the Rohan family] may never forgive him,” said Mr McInerney.
Passing sentence, Judge Staines highlighted the fact that the Rohan family had been “very upset” when they saw Mr Courtney socialising soon after the crash and the fact that he knew his car was defective.
“You were fully aware of this, but despite this you took it out and drove anyway,” she said.
She sentenced Mr Courtney to five years in prison, with the final 18 months suspended for one year; and disqualified him from driving for 10 years.
“I offer my deepest sympathies to the Rohan family,” she said.