Court told driver drank large amount of alcohol before fatal car accident


A 23-year-old Derry man who was said to have consumed copious quantities of alcohol before the car he was driving on the opposite side of the road collided with a minibus, resulting in the death of three of his four passengers, was jailed for four years at Letterkenny Circuit Court.

Martin Mongan, from Fergleen Park, Derry, yesterday pleaded guilty to the manslaughter of Mr John Stokes (25) and Mr Michael Corcoran on October 4th, 1999 at Carnshannon, Burnfoot. The defendant was also charged with two counts of dangerous driving causing the deaths of Mr Stokes and Mr Michael Corcoran on the same date.

The court heard the only other passenger in the Vauxhall Astra to survive the accident was Ms Nora Corcoran. She is a sister of the accused and was four months pregnant at the time. As a result of the collision, the mother of four lost her baby. Ms Corcoran was married to Mr Martin Corcoran, who was a rear seat passenger.

His brother, Michael, was also seated in the back, while Mr Stokes was the front seat passenger.

Richard Lyons, BL, for the State, told the court that the scene immediately after the accident was one of "absolute carnage and mayhem."

The minibus with which the defendant's car collided was taking a group of young people to a disco in Buncrana.

Garda Jones, who was off duty, came on the scene and immediately alerted the Gardaí and rescue services.

Garda Sgt Mick Murray, of Buncrana Garda station, arrived at the scene at around 12.50 a.m. He recalled a "scene of total carnage". Two of the five occupants of the Astra were dead, while eight passengers on the minibus were seriously injured. He learned the accused had been in Buncrana with the four passengers. All five had visited a number of licensed premises. Sgt Murray said Mongan had consumed "copious quantities of alcohol".

When Mongan was interviewed at the scene by gardaí, he gave a false name and address. He told them he was Mr John Stokes.

It was only after consulting with Garda Jones, Sgt Murray explained, that he realised the driver of the car was still alive. Det Jones had spoken to someone who recalled removing the defendant from the driver's side after the collision.

The defendant was taken to Altnagelvin Hospital in Derry. He later discharged himself and moved to Strabane to live. He was subsequently extradited from Northern Ireland and charged with offences relating to the accident. Initially, Garda Murray said, he denied any involvement in the accident.

Mr Colm Smith SC, defending, said there was no forensic evidence available to suggest that the defendant had consumed an amount of alcohol.

Ms Nora Corcoran and Ms Ann-Marie Stokes, widows of two of the victims of the accident, asked the court not to impose a custodial sentence.

Judge Matthew Deery said that the defendant's driving was abominable. He convicted Mongan of two counts of dangerous driving causing death. He sentenced him to four years imprisonment and disqualified him from driving for 12 months.

He ordered that the terms be served concurrently. Leave to appeal was refused.