Two years for crash that killed eight people

A man has been jailed for two years and disqualified from driving for 10 years for causing a crash which killed eight people in Inishowen.

Two years for crash that killed eight people

Shaun Kelly, aged 26, had pleaded guilty to dangerous driving causing the deaths of eight people on July 11, 2010.

Seven of those killed were passengers in the car he was driving between Clonmany and Buncrana at Glasmullen, Co Donegal.

The other man killed in the crash was a 66-year-old pensioner who was driving in the opposite direction on his way home from a night at bingo.

The collision resulted in the single biggest loss of life from a car crash in the history of the State.

The men who died in the crash were:

Hugh Friel, aged 66, of Urris, Clonmany;

Eamon McDaid, aged 22, of Ballymagan, Buncrana;

Mark McLaughlin, aged 21, of Ballinahone, Fahan;

Paul Doherty, aged 19, of Ardagh, Ballyliffin;

Ciaran Sweeney, aged 19, of Ballyliffin;

PJ McLaughlin, aged 21, of Rockstown, Burnfoot;

James McEleney, aged 23, of Meenaduff, Clonmany;

and Damien McLaughlin, aged 21, of Umricam, Buncrana.

Judge John O’Hagan jailed Kelly for a total of four years but suspended the last two and disqualified him from driving for 10 years.

Passing sentence, he said it was sometimes difficult to be a judge.

However, he said: “The consequences in the community are insurmountable and it is beyond description. It is a terrible, terrible tragedy.”

The case had been adjourned from last week for yesterday’s sentencing at Letterkenny Circuit Court.

Sgt Carol Doherty, of Buncrana Garda Station, described a scene of devastation and carnage when she arrived at the scene of the horrific crash.

She revealed how none of the men were wearing seatbelts in the VW Passat and that Kelly had his seatbelt clicked in and was actually sitting on the belt.

Mr Friel was declared dead at the scene at a short time later.

All seven of Kelly’s passengers were pronounced dead at the scene, while Kelly was transferred to Letterkenny General Hospital.

Sgt Doherty also told the court that Kelly had two previous convictions, one for dangerous driving before the crash and another for driving without a registration plate on his truck since the crash.

Dr Mark Hogan, a clinical senior neuropsychologist, has been treating Kelly since March 15, 2011.

He said Kelly has suffered a brain injury and was showing all the problems of trying to deal with that injury.

He said Kelly had consistently talked about suicide and how he wished he could join his friends.

He said he has overall expressed remorse and does accept responsibility for what happened on the night.

All eight families who suffered a loss of life were invited to read out victim impact statement to the court.

All described the hurt, pain and grief they have suffered over the years.

Four of the families appealed to Judge John O’Hagan not to send Kelly to jail.

The father of the accused, Liam Kelly, read out a statement in court reflecting how his family had been affected by the crash.

He revealed how a few weeks before the crash, his son had wanted to go to America but he asked him to stay to help him in the family transport business.

He added that he sometimes blames himself, saying the crash might never have happened if he hadn’t asked his son to stay at home.

He said there was now a healing process between the families and he asked Judge John O’Hagan not to interrupt that process.

“We beg you not to do anything that will prevent that healing process in our communities,” he said.

When Judge O’Hagan passed sentence, several people in the packed courthouse broke down crying.

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