A firefighter who drank up to 15 pints before he knocked down a 27-year-old man walking home from St Stephen's Day celebrations has been jailed for five and a half years.
Derek Keane (40) has no memory of getting into his van to drive home to Skerries in the early hours of December 27, 2016, Dublin Circuit Criminal Court heard today.
He went to gardaí later that day after he discovered his damaged vehicle parked at his house and heard that a young man had been injured in a hit-and-run.
Callum Grimes was walking along the rural road when he was hit. Other road users who came forward to gardaí reported that he did not appear drunk and stepped out of the way any time a car approached.
Mr Grimes, described by his family as a “shy boy who loved life”, died seven months later in Beaumont Hospital after suffering catastrophic brain injuries in the hit-and-run. He never regained consciousness.
In an emotional and lengthy victim impact statement read out in court, Mr Grimes' father, Mark Grimes, described the agony endured by the family as they watched their son 'Cal' suffer numerous operations, invasive procedures and blood clots in Beaumont Hospital.
He read out various diary extracts he and Mr Grimes' mother wrote for their son, in the hopes that he would one day wake up and read about what happened to him.
The family made the decision to turn off his life support on July 13, 2017, after they were told he had “passed beyond hope”, the court heard. He died the following day, then aged 28.
Addressing Keane directly, Mr Grimes Snr said he would never understand how Keane, who was a part-time firefighter and qualified first-aider, could have left his son at the side of the road. He said he often wondered if those critical first hours could have made a difference.
He also criticised Keane's delay in not pleading guilty until the first day of his trial in October, saying it had put the family through “two years of hell”.
During that time, the victim's mother was diagnosed with terminal cancer. She was too ill to attend court today.
Mr Grimes said:
“I would like some day to find the grace to forgive...But this is not the day.
Sentencing Keane, Judge Martin Nolan said it was a “lamentable and tragic case”. He said the Grimes family had to witness their loved one dying over a lengthy period of time.
“I think most of us can imagine what it would feel like to watch a son, a brother, an uncle, a relative, a friend, dying in this fashion,” the judge said.
He said Keane's offending was at the highest end of the scale for the offence of dangerous driving causing death.
This man drank to such an extent that rendered him incapable of controlling his vehicle. He was even incapable of remembering what occurred.
He said that nobody would ever know what happened that night.
“But one thing is for sure; there was a collision and this young man was very badly injured and it ultimately led to his death.”
Keane of The Cottage, Loughshinny, Skerries, Co Dublin pleaded guilty to dangerous driving causing death at Loughshinny on December 27, 2016. He also pleaded guilty to failing to provide assistance at the scene. He has one previous conviction for speeding.
Dominic McGinn SC, defending, said there was nothing he could say that could alleviate the “obvious agony endured by Callum's family”. A letter of apology from his client had been given to the family of Mr Grimes in court, he said.
He said Keane was a qualified electrician, who worked as a part-time firefighter. He has a partner and two young children, aged one and two, the court heard. He volunteers for the Salvation Army and is qualified in first aid.
Keane is deeply regretful for his actions that night, Mr McGinn said.
“He will life with the shame for the rest of his life.”
Reading out an emotional and lengthy victim impact statement in Dublin Circuit Criminal Court today, Mark Grimes' voice broke several times as he described his son Cal - “a genuinely beautiful person”.
When his parents, Mark and Catherine, got the news on December 27, 2016 that their son had been knocked down, a family friend suggested they should keep a diary of his hospital stay so they could show him everything he had gone through when he woke up.
Extracts of those diary excerpts, read out by Mr Grimes, gave an insight into the agony endured by the family as they watched Callum's fight for his life between December 2016 and July 2017.
He suffered numerous surgeries, invasive procedures and blood clots. He never regained consciousness, but Mr Grimes recalled watching his son “rise in agony” in the bed during certain procedures.
In one entry on March 23 the diary entry read:
Cal, you're in such distress. You look in such pain.
In another entry on May 30, after the family signed a do not resuscitate form, Mr Grimes wrote: “If your heart stops they will not bring you back. Please forgive me.”
The last entry read in court, dated July 13, finished with: “Sleep well, son”.
The “shy boy who loved life” travelled to Australia with his girlfriend Ash and “came home a man”, Mr Grimes said. He loved art, movies, music and rapping. He was an amateur chef.
Addressing Derek Keane directly in court, Mr Grimes said: “We struggle in the name of all that is decent Mr Keane to understand how you killed our son and left him on the side of the road. As a nurse I believe those hours could have been crucial and wonder, if you had done the decent thing and got help immediately, would Callum be with us still.”
In a statement on behalf of Callum Grimes' family, solicitor Dermot McNamara said:
"The parents of Callum Grimes believe their son would be alive and with their family today, if he had received urgent medical attention.
“They struggle to understand why a firefighter and trained paramedic would decide to leave the scene of an accident, knowing the person they struck needed urgent assistance.
“Callum fought bravely for his life, enduring multiple surgical procedures over a six-month period in the Intensive Care Unit of Beaumont Hospital, before eventually succumbing to his injuries on July 14, 2017.
“His parents Mark and Catherine believe that the hours he was left alone at the roadside were critical to his potential recovery, and that he would be alive today if the driver had either stopped or returned to the scene of the accident.”