150km/h crash paralyses woman (25)
A Ballina man has been sent to jail for six years, with two suspended, following a high-speed car crash which left a Leitrim woman unable to move, eat or talk.
Judge Tony Hunt said he could not recall anyone being ‘so seriously and tragically maimed as a result of a road accident’.
Martin Kearney (31) of Faranoo, Ballina was driving a high-powered BMW 3 series car with a 3.2-litre engine at more than 150km/h (94 mph) at 12.30am on September 30 at Drumiskabole (near Ballisodare), Sligo. He lost control turning off a main road and onto a slip road and the car skidded for 114 metres, the court heard.
It then tumbled over two barriers and tumbled for another 100m until it struck a pole. Kearney and a rear-seat passenger were thrown from the car but front-seat passenger Lydia Branley from Largydonnell, Kinlough, Co Leitrim, was trapped inside. She was eventually freed after emergency services used cutting equipment.
However, Ms Branley remained in a coma for nine months. When she awoke, her injuries were so severe that she can no longer move a muscle, eat or speak. Her brain is otherwise fully functional.
Driver previously banned
The court heard that Kearney was driving on the night in question shortly after his driving license was returned to him halfway through an earlier five-year road ban.
Ms Branley (25) was an aviation radio controller who worked linking communications between air traffic controllers at Prestwick outside Glasgow and pilots in the mid-Atlantic. In a victim impact statement read by her sister Andrea, she described how her life had become a nightmare.
She said that she was ‘horrified’ when she came out of a coma and discovered she had lost the use of her limbs and could not talk or eat. Her dream to travel the world was over.
Kearney pleaded guilty to the charge of dangerous driving causing serious harm at Sligo Circuit Court last week. At the sentencing last Thursday in Roscommon, Judge Hunt handed down a 20-year driving ban and the six-year jail sentence, suspending the final two years. The maximum sentence for such an offence is ten years.
Judge Hunt said that great speed was the primary cause of the tragedy and the court had heard that there was no evidence of drugs or alcohol consumption. He added that Kearney, who worked in the motor industry, had departed from a level of driving which could be expected from him.
Ms Branley was in court with members of her family to hear the sentence. Judge Hunt said he was acutely aware of the devastation the accident had wrought.
“After this accident her mind is still present, but her body almost has ceased to function. Anybody who heard the evidence would appreciate the devastation brought about by Mr Kearney’s actions,” he said. He described Ms Branley’s injuries as ‘harm almost beyond belief’.