Man jailed for crash which caused death and serious injury
Sean Casey was four times over the drink drive limit at the time of the accident
Judge O Donnabhain said it was one of the worst cases of its kind he had come across
A 27-year-old man who crashed into a roundabout killing one of his passengers and paralysing another, has been jailed for seven years and banned from driving for 30 years.
Sean Casey from Cooragannive, Skibbereen, Co Cork was four times over the drink driving limit at the time. He pleaded guilty to dangerous driving causing the death of Megan Johnston (22) and causing serious bodily harm to Kate Petford (23) who was paralysed after the crash on April 8th 2013.
Three of Casey’s other passengers, Michael Connolly, Patrick O’Sullivan and Michael West also suffered minor injuries in the crash while Casey emerged unscathed and fled from the scene at Ilen Street in Skibbereen, Cork Circuit Criminal Court was told.
Ms Johnston was pronounced dead at the scene while Ms Petford was rushed to hospital with extensive injuries and has ended up paralysed from the neck down and is currently receiving treatment at the National Rehabilitation Institute, Garda Oonagh Collins told the court.
The accident happened at 1.45am and CCTV footage from a nearby garage showed Casey was travelling at 80kph when he crashed his silver BMW into the roundabout and collided with a lampost in an area which was governed by a 50kph speed limit.
Garda Collins said Casey fled the scene but later rang the emergency services and was found hiding in a ditch in Ilen Street and when he was breathalysed three hours later, he was found to have a blood alcohol concentration of 204mgs per 100 mls - four times the legal limit.
He was later arrested by gardaí, made full admissions and had pleaded guilty to the dangerous driving charge as well as a drink driving charge and a failing to remain at the scene of accident charge, said Garda Collins.
Casey, who worked in his family’s plant hire business, had a previous conviction from 2010 for failing to give appropriate information under the Road Traffic Act, said Garda Collins who revealed that Ms Johnston was pronounced dead at the scene
Judge Sean O Donnnabhain heard poignant and emotional victim impact statements from both Ms Johnston’s parents and Ms Petford and her family before Casey took witness stand to apologise for his actions.
“I am very sorry for what happened...I wish I could take back what happened...it kills me every day to think what happened...I am very sorry,” said Casey whom the court heard had been drinking with the group in the Harbour Bar in Leap on the night in question.
A staff member in the bar had taken his car keys from him and he didn’t argue with her and the staff member even offered to drive him and his friends home but another in the group repeatedly asked her for the car keys and she eventually relented and gave them to them.
Judge O Donnabhain said it was one of the worst cases of its kind he had come across and he marvelled at Ms Petford’s generosity of spirit in that, despite ending up paralysed and dependent on others her greatest regret was the loss of her friend, Ms Johnston
He said he was conscious of being constrained by a ruling of the Court of Criminal Appeal in the case of Oliver Shevlin where a seven and half year sentence was reduced to five on appeal for a dangerous driving causing death but he had to view the matter extremely seriously.
He recognised Casey’s guilty plea and remorse as mitigating factors but he could not ignore the aggravating factors in the case including driving under the influence of alcohol, dangerous driving at such a reckless speed, the death of Ms Johnston and the injuries to Ms Petford.
He said that were it not for the mitigating factors, he would have imposed a ten year sentence but taking those into account, he believed the appropriate sentence was seven years and he disqualified Casey from driving for a period of 30 years.
Victim impact statement:
The young woman injured in the crash caused by Sean Casey when he crashed his BMW in Skibbereen told how despite ending up paralysed from the neck down, her greatest regret is that she lost her best friend in the collision.
Kate Petford (23) didn’t attend Cork Circuit Criminal Court as she is still receiving treatment in the National Rehabilitation Institute but her victim impact statement was read on her behalf by Garda Oonagh Collins.
Ms Petford spoke about how she was studying at UCC and had hoped to pursue a career in international marketing and one day to marry and have a family only to wake up two days after the crash to discover she had suffered a devastating her spinal cord injury.
“I was partially awakened in CUH to a nightmare of pain and loss .... “I am and will remain a quadraplegic, having complete paralysis and no useful function or movement from below the level of the neck,. This condition is permanent.”
She also suffered a life-threatening tear to the aorta of her heart and collapsed lungs and had to be tube fed before relearning the basic skills of breathing independently and swallowing and now is dependent on others to help her with eating, washing and other bodily functions.
“My greatest loss has been the death of my best friend, Megan Johnston who tragically lost her life in the same accident - the loss of my friend at such an early stage is a tragedy and a sadness with which I must live.
“Despite the loss of my spontaneity and independence and the catastrophic impact of this accident on so many aspects of my life, I am at least fortunate to have survived and am so much more fortunate than my beloved friend, Meg who has been lost forever.
“Perhaps my greatest regret, apart of course from the death of my beloved friends is that the tragic events and tragic consequences of the road traffic accident were entirely avoidable and arose by reason of dangerous and irresponsible driving by the defendant.”
Ms Johnston’s parents, Valda and Stephen told of the impact of their daughter’ death with Ms Johnston relating how she had come to rely heavily on her daughter after she suffered a stroke in December 2012 which left her confined to a wheelchair.
“When I got sick, Meg gave up college and was 100pc there for me as a carer and emotionally she was the one person I kept going for, her daily visits to the hospital, taking me out on trips, running our home and she did all this with a smile, a giggle and love,” said Ms Johnston.
“ I knew we have a special bond and I didn’t want her to give up her lifestyle for me but she did and I loved her for making me feel safe, loved and never treating me any differently than she did before I had my stroke ... I always laughed when she was with me.
“Meg was my life, my future, my daughter, my friend. ... And when I heard that she had been killed in car crash my world fell apart .... when Meg was taken, I lost my permanent carer, my confidante, my reason for getting up and fighting my illness.”
Both Ms Petford and Ms Johnston both said that they hoped that Casey would be held accountable for his actions on the night with Ms Petford observing it seemed “unfair that the defendant should continue to enjoy his life untrammelled by the consequences of his actions”.