Judge Marie Keane
A Ballycahill driver who transported an elderly man with serious injuries in his car to Clonmel after a collision in Thurles, did so in an “entirely self serving” manner, said a Judge at Thurles District Court.
Edward Francis Power, of Garrynamona, Ballycahill, Thurles, was charged with failing to report an accident, according to Sec 106 of the Road Traffic Act, 1961, in relation to an collision which occurred at Westgate, Friar Street, Thurles, on April 11, 2016. Mr Power was also charged with failing to remain at the scene, failing to stop, and driving a defective vehicle. Denis Ryan, the injured party and main witness for the prosecution, told Judge Marie Keane that he went for a walk in Liberty Square that evening at about 11pm. He had passed Supermac’s and was crossing the road, when he felt a “blackness”. “Everything went dark,” said Mr Ryan, describing the collision.
The next thing he remembered is being put into a car, with three other people - two males and a female. Mr Ryan, suffering serious injuries, was taken to a farmyard in Holycross, and “kept there for a while” before being transferred to another car. This car was then driven to Clonmel, stopping at the Topaz in Cashel, so the driver could buy “chocolate” and “something to eat”. Mr Ryan said the next thing he remembers is “waking up in Waterford”. Mr Ryan suffered “double breaks” to his right leg, and injuries to his shoulder, chest and back, and had to wear a brace for 3 or 4 weeks afterwards. He still suffers pain from his injuries, has to wear morphine patches, and has to use a walking aid. “I don’t know if the car ran over me or stopped,” said Mr Ryan.
A witness, Michael Clancy, gave evidence that he was outside Supermac’s, when he heard a bang and saw a man lying on the road. A car “reversed back” at the scene. Mr Clancy shouted to call an ambulance and observed two people lifting a man from the ground into the car. Mr Clancy went down to get the licence plate number but by the time he got there, “they were gone”. Gardaí arrived, and the whole incident only took a few minutes, said Mr Clancy.
Shauna Carroll gave evidence that she heard the bang “down by Airport” (clothing store) and close to Subway restaurant. People were pointing at the car, which was driven away after a couple of minutes. Insp. Padraic Powell asked if the occupants of the car provided any medical attention. “No, they just put him straight into the car,” said Ms Carroll.
Another witness, John Butler, observed the incident, and a girl “shouting help”. The injured man was “put into the car. I was unable to tell if he was unconscious. The car just drove off.”
Garda Rory McGovern said he was on duty that night when they received a call around 1.50am, to attend South Tipperary General Hospital. Gardaí met with Mr Power, who was standing outside the A&E. There were 3 or 4 Doctors around Denis Ryan, who had to be transferred to Waterford. In his professional opinion, Garda McGovern said it would have been preferable if Mr Ryan was brought to a hospital using an ambulance, and not a private car. Garda Brendan Ryan said he spoke to Mr Power that night. He detected a smell of alcohol from Mr Power’s breath, who said he had consumed “one or two cans”. A roadside breath test showed Mr Power did not exceed the alcohol limit. Mr Power informed him that the car was not the same one involved in the collision in Thurles. Mr Power maintained he could not call the emergency services as his phone was low on battery. The Court heard that Mr Power was “forthright” in volunteering information to Gardaí in Clonmel. This information was given “within 2 hours” of the accident, maintained Mr Power’s Solicitor. The journey to Clonmel should not have taken more than 40 minutes, said Insp. Powell.
Garda Faith Noonan said she found a shoe at the scene, which was later identified by Mr Ryan’s wife, as belonging to her husband, Denis. She later arranged to meet Mr Power in Holycross and asked him why he left the scene. Mr Power said he “panicked” and his mobile phone went dead. Mr Power’s Lexus car had “lots of damage” to the windscreen. Garda Noonan spoke to Gillian Barry, one of the other occupants of the car at the time of the accident. She heard that another man, Daniel Skehan, was the third occupant. Both passengers declined to give statements to Gardaí. Unfortunately, no CCTV covered that area of Liberty Square/Westgate.. Garda Noonan told Insp Powell that she believed “Mr Ryan would not have half the injuries if he had been treated at the scene.” Garda Noonan said Mr Power should have gone back to Supermac’s to call for help. Two hours was time enough for the alcohol to subside in Mr Power’s system, heard the Court.
“He could have dealt with things better on the night,” added Garda Noonan.
Garda Edward Raleigh said he examined Power’s car afterwards. In his expert opinion, the deep depression and cracks to the front windscreen, meant that the driver’s view “would have been seriously obscured” and “very difficult to drive on a country road”, and would have been a hazard to other road users. The car’s brake pads and suspension also sustained damage, and there was a “loud grinding” sound coming from the brake pads.
During an interview conducted with Mr Power in Thurles Garda Station on August 31, 2016, Mr Power said it was Mr Ryan who “walked out and struck him”. “I thought the man was in pain. I panicked. It did not occur to me to go to the Garda Station.” “I suppose I could have gone to the Garda Station.” “My main priority was to get the man to hospital.” Mr Ryan was “on the ground, pleading for help”. “I did everything in my power to help the man.” Mr Power told Gardaí he didn’t want to leave the man on the ground as he might get pneumonia.
Judge Keane said Mr Ryan was very clear in that he looked left and right, and “he was adamant that there was no car on the road” as he attempted to cross the road in the Westgate area. Judge Keane marked the facts proven against Mr Power, but dismissed the charge of failing to stop.
Mr Power’s actions were those of someone who panicked, but also “entirely self serving.” Judge Keane noted that the other two passengers declined to give statements, which was their right, although a man was “seriously injured”.
Judge Keane said it “beggars belief” that Power could not have called an ambulance from Ms Barry’s home in Holycross, or from the Topaz in Cashel, despite Mr Ryan being in “very significant pain and distress” in the car.
Judge Keane noted Mr Power’s decision to “change vehicles” and this was “entirely self serving” and “not in the interests of the injured party”. Driving a defective car with a broken windscreen was “a highly dangerous activity” and Mr Power failed to notify the authorities “in a timely fashion.” Mr Power (32) has a “sporadic income” and a driving disqualification means he will lose his job, and have to change careers.
Judge Keane took into account Mr Power’s previous good record, and “the inevitable consequence that he will lose his licence.” The incident has had a “life-changing effect” on Mr Power and Mr Ryan, and Mr Power “will have to live with the consequences of this for the rest of his life.” Judge Keane fined Power a total of €550, and disqualified him from driving for four years.