Driver jailed for five years over crash that killed two friends

'I don’t blame him in any way for being in a wheelchair,' says passenger injured in incident
Driver jailed for five years over crash that killed two friends

Joseph Gilroy: Pleaded guilty to a range of charges including dangerous driving causing death and serious injury, driving without a licence, and driving without insurance. File picture: North West Newspix

A young man who killed two friends and left another in a wheelchair for life when the car he was driving at speed crashed in Donegal has been jailed for more than five years.

Five people, including driver Joseph Gilroy, were flung out of the boot of the speeding car such was the impact of the crash.

Gilroy, who was already disqualified from driving in the North, reached speeds of 121km/h at the impact of the crash in Bundoran on August 19, 2018.

The 23-year-old appeared at Donegal Circuit Court sitting in Letterkenny today after pleading guilty to a range of charges including dangerous driving causing death and serious injury, driving without a licence, and driving without insurance.

Passing sentence, Judge John Aylmer said that despite the "extraordinarily charitable attitude" of the victims and their families, he placed the incident at the higher end of such matters.

He said the charges merited a sentence of seven years in prison, but took mitigating factors into account, including that Gilroy returned to the scene of the crash having stayed with his friends, his early guilty plea, and his obvious remorse.

He also noted that Gilroy was a hard-working young man who was pursuing a career as a talented stonemason and that he was also expecting his first child in October with his partner of six years.

On the charge of dangerous driving causing the deaths of Shiva Devine and Conall McAleer and causing serious injury to Rachel Elliott, he sentenced Gilroy to five years and three months in jail.

Judge Aylmer also disqualified Gilroy from driving for 20 years.

On a separate charge of driving with no insurance, he sentenced Gilroy to four months in prison, with the sentence to run concurrently, and also banned him for two years, also to run concurrently.

The other charges, including leaving the scene of an accident and driving without a licence, were taken into consideration.

Crash happened after leaving nightclub

The court previously heard that two friends, Shiva Devine and Conall McAleer, both aged 20, died in the crash, while another friend, Rachel Elliott, suffered life-changing injuries and now has to use a wheelchair.

Garda Oliver Devanney outlined how the friends had been socialising in Fermanagh earlier before travelling to Bundoran to attend a nightclub.

They left the nightclub and six of them piled into the blue Peugeot 306, which travelled just 550m before it crashed at Single St, Eastend, Bundoran, shortly after 3am.

Gilroy, of Lisnaskea, Fermanagh, had taken over the duties of driving the car from Beleek to Bundoran from Conor Brennan, who was the owner of the car.

Garda forensic evidence estimated that the car increased in speed as it travelled through a number of bends on a continuous white line before the driver lost control.

The speeding driver initially hit a curb and the car went into a sideways movement, rotating before hitting a wall and rotating again before hitting the corner of another building.

Five occupants, who were not wearing seatbelts, were thrown out of the boot of the car after it was ripped off during the impact of the collision.

Gilroy fled the scene before gardaí arrived and hid out in the vicinity of the Great Northern Hotel before phoning his father Brendan in Fermanagh. His father travelled to the scene and brought his son back to the location of the crash where he admitted being the driver of the Peugeot car and was arrested.

Rachel Elliott said the incident had changed her forever.
Rachel Elliott said the incident had changed her forever.

Gilroy 'has whole life ahead of him'

Ms  Elliott, in her victim impact statement, said the incident had changed her forever. She said she deals better with everyday situations but cannot switch off at night and that loneliness overcomes her.

She said she did not hold what happened to her against Gilroy, describing him as a "good-natured boy with his whole life ahead of him".

She said: “I just want Joe and his family to know that I hold no ill feeling to him or his family. I don’t blame him in any way for being in a wheelchair.

“Joe has to live with this for the rest of his life and that alone is a life sentence. 

I wish him all the best for the future along with the rest of the families involved because I cannot imagine what they are going through.

Shiva Devine's mother Nicola said her life, her family's lives, and that of her daughter's little boy Kyle will never be the same again.

She described her late daughter as beautiful, funny, and smart and said that she could never have imagined her life without her.

Conall McAleer's mother Jacqueline McHugh said: "I never got to remind him how proud I was of the young man he had become and what a great gift it was to have him as a son."

Gilroy, fighting back tears, told the court how he wished he could turn back the clocks on all that had happened.

In a statement read out by his barrister, Colm Smyth, he said he wanted to apologise to everyone who was affected by his actions.

He said he asked himself every day why this was part of God's plan and that all that he remembers is being "sucked from the back of the car" and landing on his knees beside his friends, who were all in the same place on the road.

He added: "I am deeply sorry and I would give my life to undo the damage if I could."

A medical report on Gilroy said he was attending counselling and suffered from anxiety, flashbacks, panic attacks, a pending sense of doom, and that he keeps himself to himself.

Members of Gilroy's family hugged him before he was led away to begin his sentence by prison officers.

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