Haulier jailed over crash which left cyclist paralysed

Judge says it ‘beggars belief’ trucker tried to overtake cyclist with such a defective lorry

A 49-year-old haulier who failed to rectify 70 defects in his truck has been jailed for three years for driving over a cyclist who has been left paralysed from the waist down as a result.

Tim Walsh from Moneen, Glanworth, Co Cork had pleaded guilty to dangerous driving causing serious injury to Vincent O'Driscoll (31) on the main Cork-Macroom road last year.

At Cork Circuit Criminal Court, Judge Seán Ó Donnabháin said that Walsh's failure to address the defects in his lorry, including a broken mirror, had had devastating consequences.

Garda Patrick O’Leary had earlier told how Mr O’Driscoll was cycling on the N22, about 3km from Macroom on August 7th, 2103 when Walsh knocked him off his bike as he overtook him.


Walsh was driving a truck and trailer carrying 42 tonnes of lumber and witnesses said the rear wheels of the trailer rolled over Mr O’Driscoll after he was knocked off his bike.

Mr O’Driscoll was taken to Cork University Hospital and initially was not expected to live. However, he survived the crash but was left paralysed.

Garda O’Leary told the court that Walsh’s truck had undergone a Department of Environment inspection two months prior to the crash and some 70 defects had been identified.

These included defects in the braking system, the lighting system and mirrors including a cracked near side mirror but Walsh who owned the truck did nothing to remedy them, he said.

Imposing sentence, Judge Ó Donnabháin said he knew the particular stretch of road well and for anyone to try overtaking there in any truck would be criminally negligent. “But to do it in this truck with all these defects including brakes, lights and a broken mirror which restricted his view and had an impact in the collision simply beggars belief,” he said.

Judge Ó Donnabháin noted Mr O’Driscoll had commented in his victim impact statement that the maximum sentence facing Walsh was 10 years for the offence. He said Mr O’Driscoll had observed that even if he got the maximum sentence, that was nothing compared to the sentence that he had been left to face as a result of Walsh’s actions.

But Judge Ó Donnabháin said that he was constrained by judgments from the Court of Criminal Appeal. He cited a case of dangerous driving causing death and injury.

In that case, a Circuit Court judge had imposed an eight-year sentence, but the Court of Criminal Appeal had reduced it on appeal to five years and he said he had to be cognisant of that.

He recalled Mr O’Driscoll’s hugely powerful victim impact statement and it was clear that he was a happy vibrant man who went out for a cycle only for his life to be changed forever.

In it, Mr O’Driscoll had listed the life-threatening injuries he suffered including a severed spinal cord, fractured pelvis, two broken hips, two broken legs and two broken ankles.

He also suffered liver failure, kidney failure, bowel damage and bladder damage as well as a minor head injury and a minor shoulder injury, the court heard.

He spent a month in an induced coma in the intensive care unit at Adelaide and Meath Hospital in Tallaght and then three months more in ICU there after regaining consciousness.

He was transferred to the National Rehabilitation Hospital in Dún Laoghaire in February 2014 but his rehabilitation was hampered when a skin graft broke open.

“I still struggle with fairly severe pain especially in my feet. I can’t sit out of the bed that long - I might last two to three hours in the wheelchair before I have to lie down on the bed.”

Mr O’Driscoll said that he was on very strong painkillers but they didn’t seem to have any positive effect on him anymore. When the pain gets bad he has to lie down.

He told how he had to wear a colostomy bag due to the damage to his bowel, and a catheter due to damage to his bladder. He said he did not know if he’s would have to wear those for life.

“To be honest, the psychological side of it is nearly as bad as the physical side of it, if not worse - I used to get up in the morning and I used to be a happy person,” he said.

“I had to wake up to a new body which I wasn’t familiar with. It makes you feel a different person; it’s going to take me a long time to get over, if I ever will.

“It makes me contemplate suicide. I’ve talked to my psychologist and she reckons that I’m not depressed but that I’m grieving - grieving for the body I had and the life I had.”

Mr O’Driscoll said that every plan he ever had had changed, including one to have children with his fiancée, Karen, but he wasn’t even sure if that would ever be possible now.

“Medically, the type of spinal cord injury I have shortens your life by 15 to 30 years,” said Mr O’Driscoll, adding that he didn’t know if he would ever be able to work in any capacity again.

“I am a forgiving person and I understand that accidents do happen but accidents like mine could easily be avoided with a bit of patience on the part of drivers,” he said.

“I think my accident specifically could have been avoided - I think the truck driver was reckless in relation to my safety - he didn’t give me a chance.”

Mr O’Driscoll said the driver had shown “ no understanding of road safety, for cyclists in particular”.

“There isn’t much room for manoeuvre at the spot where he tried to overtake me, yet he still tried to overtake.

“His split second decision to overtake me on that stretch of road has had a devastating effect on every aspect of my life,” said Mr O’Driscoll, who was a keen participant in triathlons.

Judge Ó Donnabháin noted that Walsh was under stress at the time of the crash as his brother had gone missing in the UK and was subsequently found to have taken his own life.

And he also noted that he was the primary carer for his 16 year old son who would suffer as a result of a custodial sentence but he felt he had no option but to impose such a penalty.

He sentenced Walsh to four years in jail but suspended the final year of the sentence and he disqualified him from driving for 15 years

Barry Roche

Barry Roche

Barry Roche is Southern Correspondent of The Irish Times