Young driver jailed over horrific Donegal crash which killed two friends

Young driver jailed over horrific Donegal crash which killed two friends

Stephen Maguire

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 Co Donegal has been jailed for more than five years.

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

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

Mitigating factors

He said that before mitigation the charges merited a sentence of seven years in prison before mitigating factors.

These factors included the fact that he returned to the scene of the crash having stayed with his friends, his early guilty plea and the obvious remorse shown by the accused.

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 causing serious injury to Rachel Elliott, he sentenced Gilroy to five years and 3 months in jail.

He also disqualified him from driving from 20 years.

On a separate charge of driving with no insurance he also sentenced Gilroy to 4 months in prison with the sentence to run concurrently and also banned him for two years to run concurrently also.

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

Two friends

The court previously told 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 the horrific circumstances of the crash to the court.

He told 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 car before it travelled just 550 yards before it crashed at Single Street, Eastend, Bundoran just after 3am.

Mr 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.

Hit the kerb

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 kerb and the car went into a sideways movement, rotating before hitting a wall and rotting 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.

The front seat passenger remained in the car and was able to get out of the car himself.

The car's engine was also dislodged and found elsewhere as was its axle.

Civilians rushed to the scene to help the injured. Mr McAleer was pronounced dead while bystanders undertook CPR on Ms Devine for 15 minutes, but she too died at the scene.

Fled the scene

Gilroy fled the scene before Gardai 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.

The mothers of those killed in the crash read out heartbreaking victim impact statements.

Rachel Elliott said the accident had changed her forever.

However, she said she deals better with everyday situations but cannot switch off at night and that loneliness overcomes her.

She added that all those involved in the crash will live with a life sentence describing it as a heartache that will never heal.

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

In her victim impact statement, 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.”

Mother's broken heart

Shiva Devine's mother Nicola said her life or 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.

She added that she dreams that she is with Shiva again but wakes up with tears running down her cheeks saying a mother's broken heart never heals.

Conall McAleer's mother Jacqueline McHugh gave a heartbreaking victim impact statement about her only son Conall.

He was an electrician, but his passion was farming and on the day she last saw him he fixed her tumble dryer and level the stones in her street in time for his sister's party.

Friend for life

He was not vain but so handsome and if you were a friend of his you had a friend for life.

She added "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."

Mr 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 Mr 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."

Anxiety and flashbacks

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.

His partner Lee Flanagan said she is pregnant with Mr Gilroy and the couple are due their first child saying she cannot imagine trying to cope without him in her life when the baby is born.

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

Ms Rachel Elliott sat nearby weeping as Gilroy was led away.

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