Eight-death crash driver alters plea to guilty

Shaun Kelly

The man charged with dangerous driving causing the deaths of eight people in Inishowen in 2010 has pleaded guilty.

The trial of Shaun Kelly was due to begin today, with defence barrister Peter Nolan saying it could last more than a week.

Kelly, aged 25, of Hill Road, Buncrana, appeared at Letterkenny Circuit Court, as did the families of those who died in the crash outside Clonmany.

Kelly had initially pleaded not guilty to the charge shortly before 11am.

A jury panel of six men and six woman was then sworn in. However, when the case was due to commence, Mr Kelly asked to be rearraigned and changed his plea to guilty.

Judge O’Hagan released Kelly on his own bail until December 9.

He ordered all theappropriate medical and other reports be carried out on Kelly.

Judge O’Hagan then addressed members of the families who had come to court. He told them: “Something distressing, but positive, has happened and I hope it gives you some closure on the affair.”

He then informed them of Kelly’s last-minute decision to plead guilty.

He then asked that one member of each family provide a victim impact statement to be presented in the future.

He also asked each family to nominate one family member to read out that report at a future sitting.

The case was due to last up to one week, with a number of reports and also expert testimonies due to be heard in court.

The case was mentioned last week at the opening day of the current Letterkenny Circuit Court sitting when state barrister Patricia McLoughlin requested a German translator to aid an expert witness from Germany.

The death of seven men in their teens or early twenties, as well as a man in his sixties returning home from bingo in a Toyota Corolla on July 11, 2010, has left a huge scar on the landscape of the Inishowen Peninsula where they all lived.

With this in mind, Judge O’Hagan revealed that the selection of possible jury members for yesterday’s trial was made outside of the Inishowen area.

Despite this, a number of those selected to be on the jury were excused after it was heard they knew relatives of those killed in the crash.

Those killed in the two-car crash on the night of the World Cup Final in 2010 were Hugh Friel, 66, of Urris, Clonmany; Eamon McDaid, 22, of Ballymagan, Buncrana; Mark McLaughlin, 21, of Ballinahone, Fahan; Paul Doherty, 19, of Ardagh, Ballyliffin; Ciaran Sweeney, 19, of Ballyliffin; PJ McLaughlin, 21, of Rockstown, Burnfoot; James McEleney, 23, of Meenaduff, Clonmany; and Damien McLaughlin, 21, of Umricam, Buncrana.

Kelly spent a number of weeks in Letterkenny General Hospital and suffered multiple injuries.

The crash resulted in the biggest loss of life in one single road traffic accident in the history of the State.

The deaths of the men caused a huge outpouring of grief across Inishowen and the wider community.

The eight funerals took place over a number of days to allow some the families of the deceased to attend each other’s burials.

Many of the men who died in Kelly’s Volkswagen Passat car had known each other since they were boys.

The trial has faced numerous delays over the past two years.

The most recent was an application by Kelly’s legal team to see if he was fit to plead.

During that time, Judge John O’Hagan apologised to the families of all concerned over the delays in bringing the case to trial.


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