A Wexford-based lorry driver who was involved in an accident which severed another driver's leg was convicted of dangerous driving in Tullow District Court last week.
Billy Dilworth of 18 Milhaven, Castlebridge, Wexford was charged with committing the offence at Castlegrace, Tullow on August 15, 2001.
During an accident involving the defendant's truck and another truck, Christy McElligott, a well-known figure in Irish soccer circles, lost his right leg.
Mr. McElligott was the first person to give evidence in the case and said that he was travelling towards Wexford on the Tullow to Bunclody road when he came to a bend in the road.
He saw a truck come around the bend and jack-knife before the trailer of the other vehicle struck his cab and severed his right leg from below the knee.
His cab then went on fire and he pulled himself through the shattered front windscreen and crawled 40 to 50ft away from the vehicle.
He told the court that he had been travelling at about 30 to 35mph before the accident.
When he saw the other truck lose control, he hugged his side of the road to try and make more space for the other vehicle.
'I could hear the wing mirror catching the branches of the trees,' he recalled as he added that the morning was hazy but that the road conditions seemed okay.
Photos of truck
The defendant's solicitor then showed Mr. McElligott photos taken just after the accident with the lawyer stating that they did not indicate that the defendant's vehicle had jack-knifed.
'The photographs only show the back of the lorry not the front,' the witness replied.
A statement from another witness, Anthony Gaynor, was then read to court by Garda Superintendent John Murphy.
He said that Mr. Gaynor had been travelling behind the defendant's truck before the accident occurred.
He was travelling between 40 and 50mph on a road where he felt the visibility was poor and he noticed that the lorry 'went away from him a bit' before it crashed into a vehicle going in the opposite direction, the Superintendent read.
He added that Mr. Gaynor then crashed into the back of the defendant's truck as he could not stop in time.
Garda David McGrath also gave evidence in the case as he told the court that he had responded to the accident.
He stated that he spoke to Dilworth at the scene and the defendant appeared to be shocked and concerned.
'He was very worried about Mr. McElligott,' the Garda recalled as he added that the defendant told him that 'it just went all over the road when I braked'.
Responding to the defendant's solicitor on this point, Garda McGrath said that the comment had been made during a 'casual conversation'.
Examining the scene, Garda McGrath found brake marks from the defendant's vehicle of over 100ft.
He added that the brake marks had been in a straight line and that both trucks were found close to the ditch.
He also explained that the road surface was greasy and that it was a narrow twisty road.
Garda Sergeant Donal Prendergast, a Public Service Vehicle Inspector, said that he examined both of the vehicles involved in the crash and determined that the trailer of Dilworth's vehicle had hit the cab of the other truck.
'It (the trailer) would have almost severed the front part of the cab,' Sergeant Prendergast stated.
The defendant's solicitor than applied to have the charges struck out as he stated that there was no evidence of dangerous driving and no evidence of speed being involved.
He added that the physical evidence found at the scene of the accident did not support the claim that his client's truck had jack-knifed.
Judge John O'Sullivan disagreed with the speed aspect of the solicitor's argument, however, as he added that a witness said that he was travelling behind the truck at between 40 and 50mph.
'On a very narrow road, speeds of 40 and 55mph are very unacceptable,' the judge remarked before the defendant himself gave evidence to the court.
A Scottish man, he said that he had been living in Ireland for a number of years and had been employed by Wextrans for two-and-a-half years.
He said that he was travelling towards Dublin at between 45 and 50mph when he saw a lorry coming towards him.
The cabs of both vehicles passed closely by each other before he felt a bang and was thrown forward onto his windscreen.
He was knocked unconscious and only remembered being dragged from the cab which was on fire.
He told the court that the accident occurred on a wet morning and that he may have been going 'a little bit fast'.
'If I was going slower, it probably wouldn't have happened,' he said.
A witness for the defendant, Denis Woods, a forensic engineer, also gave evidence in the case and said that he found no signs of jack-knifing at the scene.
He added that the trailer on Dilworth's vehicle was slightly wider than the cab and that the corner of this trailer would have struck the edge of Mr. McElligott's cab.
'It was a side-swipe collision,' he said, as he added that only a few inches of the trailer would have come into contact with the other vehicle.
He added that, in his opinion, Dilworth had been travelling on the correct side of the road in a straight line and that his speed would have been acceptable under the rules of the road.
He added, however, that the rules of the road are such that accidents do occur under them.
The defendant's counsel again appealed for the charge to be struck out but Judge O'Sullivan remarked that speed appeared to have been the issue.
Honour in evidence
He added that the defendant had admitted that if he had been going slower, the accident might not have happened and he commended Dilworth's 'honour and integrity' in giving this evidence.
He added that he would not take Dilworth's licence because of his honesty but he would be convicting him and fining him ?500.
'Driving at high speed on narrow windy roads is not only dangerous, it is very dangerous,' he said as he imposed the conviction.