A 26-year-old Newcastle West man has been found guilty of dangerous driving after an accident in which his right hand was almost severed.
Thomas Harty of 27 Arraview, Newcastle West told Newcastle West district court that he thought he was “going to die” as a result of an accident at Moig, Askeaton on August 17 2013.
Mr Harty denied a charge of dangerous driving in relation to the incident. However, this was disputed by the driver of the other car involved who claimed that he had been responsible for the crash.
That driver, Mary Braddish, told the court that she had been travelling on the Askeaton to Ballysteen road at about 6.30pm. As she approached a bend, she met two cars coming towards her, travelling side by side on the road.
“One car was either overtaking the other or they were racing, I’m not sure which,” she said.
She said she pulled in as far as she could to avoid a collision but the black Toyota Avensis being driven by Mr Harty clipped the side of her car before mounting the ditch and flipping over on its roof. She told the court that the second car then turned around in the middle of the road and returned to pick up the two occupants of the Avensis.
“I approached the second car and asked the driver to remain at the scene, that I was going to contact the gardai. There was a person in the back seat screaming with pain and he asked to be driven to the regional hospital,” the witness said.
Under cross examination from defence barrister, Marie-Louise Donovan, Ms Braddish said she had been travelling at between 40 and 50kph and that she was very familiar with the road. “I am on that road at least once every day, sometimes two or three times,” she said.
She described herself as a “very cautious driver” who had been driving since 1974. “Under no circumstance would I put myself at risk or put anyone else at risk by driving at speed on that road,” she added.
In his evidence, Mr Harty denied there had been a third vehicle involved in the incident. He told the court that he had been travelling to his brother’s house in Pallaskenry with his cousin Danny when the accident occurred. “I was coming down the road and as I was approaching the bend, Ms Braddish was out on the road and I had to swerve because she was completely out on the road,” he said.
He claimed Ms Braddish’s car was travelling at “60, maybe 70 miles an hour” and he himself was travelling at 40 mph.
After he swerved, he hit the ditch and the car flipped over on its roof. As a result of the accident, his hand was left “hanging off”. “I thought I was going to die,” Mr Harty said.
He claimed that, shortly afterwards, another vehicle arrived on the scene and he cried for help. He said he didn’t know the occupants of the other car but he asked them to bring him to his uncle’s house about a mile away. According to Mr Harty, this took “a bit of persuasion” as he was covered in blood, but they eventually agreed and brought him to his uncle’s house, from where he was subsequently taken to meet an ambulance which took him to hospital.
“It was like a horror movie. My hand was shredded,” he added.
When asked by Insp. Brian O’Donovan why he had failed to make a statement following the accident, Mr Harty said he didn’t think he needed to do so.
He added that he had been receiving medical treatment since the accident. “I have been to hell and back since,” he said.
His cousin, Danny Harty also gave evidence in which he claimed he did not know the occupants of the second car that arrived on the scene. He also claimed that Thomas Harty had to swerve to avoid Ms Braddish’s car which was in the middle of the road.
The barrister, Ms Donovan, said that the circumstances of the accident remained “entirely unclear”. She pointed out that gardai had found no proof that a third vehicle had been involved in the accident and that there was no evidence to support a charge of dangerous driving.
However, after considering the evidence, Judge Marian O’Leary said she was satisfied that the charge against Mr Harty had been proven and found him guilty of dangerous driving.
Insp O’Donovan told the court that the defendant had 50 previous convictions, including one for dangerous driving in 2010 for which he had been disqualified from driving for two years. As this was a second offence within a four year period, the judge imposed a mandatory four year disqualification, to come into effect from June 1, and a fine of €200.