A judge today described as "bizarre" an incident where a drunken 20-year-old man drove a bus after a night in the pub on motorways around Shannon town before crashing it into a wall.
At Ennis District Court, solicitor for Adam O’Brien, Daragh Hassett, said that Mr O’Brien took part in a “drunken prank that went horribly wrong. In fact, it was more serious than that”.
Mr O’Brien of Ravendale, Pass Road, Meelick crashed the 16-seater bus owned by PK Travel into a wall in Shannon causing €5,020 worth of damage - made up of €4,070 to the bus and €950 to the wall.
Mr O’Brien was driving the bus around Shannon for one hour and was wandering from lane to lane on the M18 motorway, heading into Limerick when apprehended by Gardaí at Bunratty shortly after 3am on February 10 this year.
Mr Hassett said that Mr O’Brien had been out with a friend and was waiting for a taxi to take him home at the front door of the Old Lodge pub at Ballycasey in the early hours.
Mr Hassett said: “There is a bit of Hollywood in this.
Mr O'Brien is waiting for the taxi but what pulls up is his drinking buddy driving a bus who had taken it with the keys in it from the nearby car-park.
"The doors open and Mr O’Brien gets on.
“They get onto the road and his friend says ‘I’m a bit drunk, will you drive?’ and Mr O’Brien, who had lots to drink, decides to take the wheel of the bus and drive around Shannon.”
Mr Hassett said that Mr O’Brien’s decision to take the wheel of the bus “is something he will regret for the rest of his life”.
He said: “The bus collides with a wall. The Guards come and the game is up.”
Mr Hassett said: “In the movies, two people take a bus and they are able to sleep it off. They go to court and they get off and the film ends well. This doesn’t end well here.”
Mr O’Brien had been disqualified from driving at Limerick District Court just weeks before the bus incident.
Garda Colm Moriarty told the court he came across the bus driving in an erratic manner across two lanes on the motorway heading in the direction of Limerick.
Mr Hassett said when the Gardaí stopped the bus, they found Mr O’Brien to be “babbling”.
Garda Moriarty said that Mr O’Brien was extremely intoxicated and told Judge Patrick Durcan that “it was very lucky that nothing serious happened”.
Mr Hassett said that his client has almost half of the compensation in court. He said: “Every penny he has is in the envelope.”
Judge Durcan said that Mr O'Brien should have his 50% of the overall compensation in court for June 6. The judge described the incident as "bizarre".
Hinting at a jail term for Mr O’Brien, Judge Durcan said that the monies paid up on that date “will reduce the sentence that I have in mind and your client might be advised to bring a little bag on that day”.
Mr O’Brien’s co-accused has fled the jurisdiction and Mr Hassett said that Mr O’Brien has stood his ground to face the charges.
In the case, Mr O’Brien has pleaded guilty to drink driving, the criminal damage of the bus and the wall and taking the bus without the consent of the owner.
He has also pleaded guilty to driving without insurance and a driving licence.
Mr Hassett described his client as a pleasant young man who lost his father to cancer when his father was aged 47.
Mr Hassett said that there were testimonials from Mr O’Brien’s school principal and parish priest.
However, Judge Durcan said that he was getting tired of letters from parish priests as he believes that it is an abuse of the parish priest to be asked to submit testimonials.
The letter from the school principal described Mr O’Brien as “a thoughtful, pleasant young man, trustworthy, reliable and demonstrates a caring nature at all times”.
Reading out the letter, Judge Durcan said: “The letter says that he “has shown a keen interest in drama in his early years” - well that is obviously something that he didn’t lose.”
Judge Durcan remanded Mr O’Brien on bail to re-appear before the court on June 6.