A momentary lapse in concentration by an experienced minibus driver resulted in a horrendous crash and serious injury to five people.
Thomas O’Sullivan (57) of 22 Hunter Park, Castletownroche, County Cork, has pleaded guilty to the charge that on May 22, 2019 at Leacht Cross, Ballyhooly, he drove dangerously causing serious bodily harm to a man, three women and a boy.
Garda Fiona O’Keeffe who investigated the collision that morning testified at Cork Circuit Criminal Court that there were no aggravating factors such as alcohol, driving at speed, or any defects in the vehicle.
Defence barrister Sinead Behan said of the defendant: “He is highly regarded by his employer as a responsible man. He is an upright and involved member of his community. This was a momentary lapse of concentration. It just shows the necessity for motorists to have absolute vigilance at all times.”
Judge Seán Ó Donnabháin imposed a suspended sentence of two years. He said there had to be a mandatory disqualification from driving for four years but that because of the seriousness of this case he was imposing a six-year disqualification.
He accepted a disqualification, particularly a lengthy one for someone living in a rural community, and in this case a man who drove for a living, was particularly punitive and “akin to a prison sentence”.
“This is a somewhat extraordinary case. The accused, Thomas O’Sullivan, was an experienced driver, an employed driver, going about his work. There is no explanation for this horrendous accident except that he lost concentration immediately before it,” the judge said.
He noted that the accused was fully insured and he was told during the sentencing hearing that there were civil cases being taken by the injured parties, some of whom suffered catastrophic injuries.
The judge said that the longer period of disqualification was merited given Thomas O’Sullivan’s failure to keep a proper lookout on the occasion, something the judge described as a really basic and fundamental requirement for all drivers.
Victim impact statements were handed directly to the judge who read them without disclosing their contents in court.
Two of the injured parties – a woman and a teenaged schoolboy - were travelling in the minibus early that morning. The minibus collided with the rear of a Toyota which was stopped by the female driver on the road until it was clear to cross and make a turn to the right.
Garda O’Keeffe said that after the minibus collided with the Toyota it went into the path of a Hyundai car driving towards Fermoy, causing a head-on collision and seriously injuring the male driver and his wife who was the front seat passenger.
She testified that the defendant did give a statement to gardaí. “He believes he must have lost concentration. He cannot account for how the accident happened. He is a man with no previous convictions. Up to that day he drove for a living,” Garda O’Keeffe said.