A drunk driver who killed a pedestrian and injured two gardaí has been given 240 hours’ community service in lieu of a four-year prison sentence and disqualified from driving for four years.
Father of two, Adrian Nestor, aged 44, of Keamsella, Kilcolgan, Co Galway, pleaded guilty before Galway Circuit Criminal Court last November to causing the death of Liam McDonnell, 66, and causing serious bodily harm to Garda Sharon Casserly, by driving dangerously near Ardrahan in the early hours of Monday, February 1 last year.
He also pleaded guilty to driving while drunk and having a blood/alcohol reading of 272mg of alcohol per 100ml of blood at the time of the fatal collision.
Sentencing was adjourned to yesterday for the preparation of reports and victim impact statements.
Superintendent Sean Glynn gave evidence that staff at a local nursing home rang gardaí at 11.35pm on Sunday night, March 31, 2016, to say a resident had left the premises and they were concerned because he was wearing dark clothing.
Garda Sharon Casserly and Garda Peter Murtagh located Mr McDonnell. He was down on the ground on his hands and knees, on the hard shoulder about 1.5km on the Galway side of Ardrahan.
The patrol car pulled in on the hard shoulder, three to four meters behind Mr McDonnell, facing in the direction of oncoming traffic. Its dipped headlights and blue flashing lights were on.
Supt Glynn said that as both gardaí were getting Mr McDonnell into the patrol car, they were struck by a silver Audi car. The force of the impact caused Mr McDonnell’s death and his body was found in a nearby field.
Garda Casserly received severe injuries and her colleague could hear her screaming in agony. Garda Murtagh sustained a broken leg, a large cut to his head and damage to his knees and ankles and could not move to help his colleague.
He rang the emergency services from his mobile phone and told Nestor to go to a nearby house for help.
Nestor, who sustained a minor head injury in the collision, was later arrested.
Nestor told gardaí he left his home at 7pm the previous evening to attend a wake near Ardrahan. He had a pint in a pub in Ardrahan before going to the wake a short distance away where he drank a further three to four cans of beer. He left the wake and went to another pub in Ardrahan village where he had another pint. He decided to go home around 12.10am and was then involved in the fatal collision.
Supt Glynn said Mr McDonnell was pronounced dead at the scene. A subsequent toxicology report showed he had 182mg of ethanol in his system, which came within the toxic range.
A brief victim impact statement from Mr McDonnell’s ex-wife, was read into evidence: “I’m not looking for anything except clemency for his (Nestor’s) young family, as jail will not help bring Liam back.”
Supt Glynn confirmed Nestor had no previous convictions and was married with two children.
Supt Glynn said the Garda car was pushed back almost five meters by the impact and was in on the hard shoulder.
Garda Sharon Casserly, who continues to suffer from injuries she sustained that night, read her own victim impact statement.
She listed the multiple serious injuries she sustained, including a brain injury. The court heard she also suffered a stroke while in hospital. She had to cancel her wedding day which was due to take place the following June and her career prospects have been put on hold: “My life has been turned upside down because of the mindless and selfish actions of a drunken driver.”
Garda Murtagh told the court that while he suffered serious physical injuries, he said his one lasting regret is for Mr McDonnell: “I feel like I failed in my duty to protect him.”
Mr Nestor told the court he had contemplated taking his own life after that night: “I will forever beat myself up for getting behind the wheel with alcohol taken.”
Judge McCabe said everyone accepted Nestor’s remorse was genuine but the fact he had consumed alcohol was an aggravating factor.
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