Northern Ireland news

Tyrone crash victims speak of 'horrible' ordeal after drunk-driver jailed

Aine Doherty and Andrea Hill in hospital after their car was hit by a drunk-driver
Brendan Hughes

TWO young women from Co Tyrone who suffered life-changing injuries after being hit by a drunk-driver have opened up about their "horrible" ordeal.

Aine Doherty (24) and Andrea Hill (29) were travelling home from work when an out-of-control BMW rounded a bend and struck their car head-on.

The driver, Paul Hollywood (26) of Crockanboy Road outside Omagh, had visited five different bars on a pub crawl lasting several hours.

He was jailed on Monday for 18 months and banned from driving for four years after he admitted driving while unfit and causing the women grievous bodily harm.

His victims yesterday spoke out about the impact of the crash almost two years on.

Omagh man Paul Hollywood

Ms Doherty, from Strabane, recalled how she awoke in the smoking wreckage of her car to find her mouth filled with shards of shattered windscreen glass.

Her injuries included a hole in her foot, a shattered ankle, and a badly shattered knee and broken arm, which both required permanent metal plates to be fitted.

She has been unable to return to work as she still has difficulty walking, and is due to have more surgery this summer.

Aine Doherty in hospital after she was hit by a drunk-driver

"I can't recall the impact, but my car was a complete write-off. The bonnet was that badly damaged I could hardly see out of the front window," she said.

"They had to remove the battery of the car before they removed me because they were afraid of the car going up in smoke.

"When I came round I remember spitting stuff out of my mouth. I thought it was teeth, but it wasn't – my mouth was filled with glass."

Some of Aine Doherty's injuries after the crash

Ms Hill, from Newtownstewart, said she has since suffered depression and told how her seven-year-old daughter has nightmares – fearing her mother will leave home and not return.

The mother-of-two suffered injuries including a broken chest bone and left foot, and laceration of her abdomen. While recovering, she developed a clot in her left leg requiring additional and ongoing treatment.

The friends accused Hollywood of a lack of remorse, with Ms Doherty recalling how she overheard him as they were being treated in hospital.

"All Paul was worried about was when he was getting his car back. That's what hurt and angered me the most," she said.

"It was an insult more than anything.

"If I was in his position and did that to somebody I would be on my knees begging for forgiveness. The fact that he has done this and shown no remorse, it angers me."

The pair warned other motorists of the consequences of drink-driving.

The damage caused to Aine Doherty's car after it was hit head-on by a drunk-driver

Ms Doherty said: "I just hope this is a lesson to people of what can happen when people drive under the influence – look what's happened to me and Andrea."

The crash happened after 9pm on Sunday August 7 2016 on Beltany Road, Omagh. Ms Doherty was driving Ms Hill home following work at the Sperrin Restaurant outside the town.

Ms Doherty was working as a waitress at the restaurant, while Ms Hill was on her first trial shift working in the kitchen.

Recalling the crash, Ms Doherty said: "It took a couple of minutes to register what had happened.

"I looked around at Andrea. Her eyes were closed and she wasn't answering me. I actually thought she was dead.

"I remember shouting for help.

"We were so lucky. There were four paramedics in a car behind us. They were able to calm us and reassure us until the ambulance got there."

Andrea Hill in hospital after the crash

Ms Hill said: "I had a flashback of my weans' faces. I woke up and took a breath and thought, 'I'm dying'.

"A lot of things were going through my head at that time, mainly my two children because I'm a single mother."

Dungannon Crown Court heard that after the crash, Hollywood denied being the driver and later refused to provide a breath test.

When he was first formally questioned, he admitted driving the vehicle but when interviewed a second time, he claimed another person was behind the wheel.

However, inquires revealed the claims were false.

Hollywood later reverted to his original admission, but claimed he had no memory of the incident.

Defence counsel Michael Ford said his client wanted to apologise to the women for his actions.

"This was largely out of character for my client. He is hard-working, attends Mass every Sunday, gives to charity and is involved in his local football and boxing club," he said.

His Honour Judge Stephen Fowler said Hollywood had been on a pub crawl and there was "deliberate reticence" to provide police with a breath specimen.

"He was over the legal alcohol limit and well he knows it."

Some of Andrea Hill's injuries after the crash

Ms Doherty, who has a six-month-old daughter, described the impact of the crash on her life as "horrible".

She said that previously she entered dance contests and enjoyed nights out, but now only feels comfortable going to certain venues because of her mobility problems.

"I have a really bad limp at the minute. Even now from I have had my baby, there's certain things I can't do with her. I can't get down on the ground to mess about with her," she said.

"There's things like that I can't do. It gets me down all the time."

Ms Hill said she suffered "badly with depression" and finds her mobility "slow", which also affects her ability to keep up with her active children.

On Hollywood's sentence, Ms Doherty said she felt that "justice has been served" as she did not think he would receive a jail term, but Ms Hill believed it should have been tougher.

"He put stress onto my weans. My wee girl is coming eight in July. She has nightmares. She doesn't want me to go anywhere in case I won't come home," she said.

"He should have got longer because he could have killed somebody on that road that night."

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