Drunk driver gets 3 years for killing retired teacher

AFTER a drinking session with friends, a businessman drove his 4x4 from a Co Limerick pub on the wrong side of the road and ploughed into a car killing a retired Clonmel secondary school teacher, Limerick Circuit Court heard.

Jason Gormley, aged 39, with an address at Rathlin, Castleconnell, was yesterday jailed for three years and banned from driving for 20 years after pleading guilty to dangerous driving causing the death of Aidan Lawless, aged 52, of Rathronan, Clonmel, on October 4, 2009, at Ballysimon, near Limerick.

Mr Lawless was returning home with his wife Cathleen that evening, after bringing their daughter, Rachel, to Limerick where she was a student at LIT.

Gormley had drunk up to eight pints of Guinness over a four-and-a-half hour period prior to the crash.

After the fatal impact he left the scene and was found more than 15 hours later after being chased through fields by gardaí.

Cathleen Lawless, in a victim impact statement to the court, said: “He (Gormley) left me with my husband fatally injured beside me, while I was trapped in the car badly injured and unable to do anything. He never offered to help. I will never forget the panic I felt when I got an awful smell of burning and heat and I though the car was going to ignite.”

The fatal impact happened at about 8.15pm and Gormley had been drinking with friends at O’Neill’s pub in Boher, two miles away since about 3.30pm.

Sgt Gearoid Thompson, Roxboro Garda Station, in reply to John O’Sullivan BL, for the state, said that after Gormley was helped from his 4x4 by a motorist who stopped at the scene, he walked down the road away from the accident spot.

When the motorist who stopped tried to prevent Gormley leaving the scene, Gormley told him to “fuck off” twice.

Gormley, according to witnesses, walked along the road from the scene like he was drunk.

A friend of his, Brian Quinn, from Fedamore, who was a passenger in the 4x4 was found by gardaí taking refuge in a nearby field nearly six hours after the accident.

Sgt Thompson said Gormley managed to get a motorist to drive him to Castleconnell where he lived with his partner Jean O’Dwyer. He gave the unsuspecting motorist €50.

There he changed his clothes and got Ms O’Dwyer to drive him to her family home at Clonlara.

Later when Gormley heard gardaí approach the O’Dwyer home he took off into nearby fields.

At about 11.30am the following day, Sgt Adrian Whelan was going off duty in his own car when he saw a man crossing a roadway near Ardnacrusha bare chested and in his bare feet.

As he matched the description of the missing motorist, Gormley, he followed him into a field and along a river bank.

Gormley tried to run off but then stopped, and walked back to Sgt Whelan.

Evidence from the scene of the fatal crash showed that Gormley’s Audi 4x4 was “unequivocally” on the incorrect side of the road at the point of impact.

Gormley was described as a substantial businessman, with interests in Dubai and Spain. He has no previous convictions.

Passing sentence, Judge Carroll Moran said Mr Lawless’s death was unnecessary and should not have happened. Gormley, he said, had consumed an excessive amount of alcohol. This and the fact he was on the wrong side of the road were aggravating factors.

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