Northern Ireland news

Tyrone man given community service for careless driving causing death

Co Tyrone crash victim Kieran McSorley (50)

A 29-year-old father of two wept as the stark details of his momentary lapse of attention whilst driving on a cold, wet winter's night caused the death of a 50-year-old man.

Kieran McSorley, from Omagh, was killed when the VW van he was a passenger in, was hit by the Toyota Hilux pick-up of Eamon Partick O'Kane, outside Ballygawley on December 17, 2015.

O'Kane, from Streefe Road, also Omagh, who was given the maximum of 240 hours community service, and banned from driving for two years, had pleaded guilty to causing death by careless driving of the "much loved husband, and much loved father".

Dungannon Crown Court Judge Neil Rafferty QC said it was one of the most "tragic and difficult cases" he has had to deal with, but he was "absolutely satisfied that a non-custodial sentence is warranted".

And he added: "I am simply struck by how the lives of two families have, in many ways, been absolutely destroyed by a momentary lack of attention and if there is any good that can come from this, is people have to realise how dangerous roads actually are".

Empathising with Mr McSorley's family in their loss, and praising their "quiet dignity" Judge Rafferty, explained how he had to follow the set guidelines in determining the appropriate sentence. And echoing the Court of Appeal, said in such cases any custodial sentence would be for just a few weeks, or months.

However, he said while O'Kane was guilty of committing a "grievous mistake", he had "expressed great remorse and guilt at the thought of the pain that the victims are going through".

Earlier prosecution QC Jackie Orr told how O'Kane was giving his grandmother a lift in his pick-up when for some reason the Toyota veered across the road into the path of a VW van driven by Stephen Kees, and in which Mr McSorley was a passenger.

Ms Orr said the Toyota, ended up on its side by a grass verge, trapping O'Kane's grandmother inside, and at the time a distraught O'Kane admitted he was tired, but accepted: "It's my fault, I looked down, or glanced down", after his grandmother had touched his arm.

The lawyer added that prior to the tragic accident there were no concerns about O'Kane's driving, nor was there any evidence of him using his mobile phone. He was sober and carried a full licence and insurance.

Ms Orr said the death of Mr McSorley had struck many, in particular his wife Donna, whose moving victim impact statement outlined while he was described as "a statistic" in being the 69th fatality on that Omagh Road, to her, "just as I was his number one, he was my number one and always will be".

Defence lawyer Ian Turkington said that his express instructions were to "make it crystal clear that Mr O'Kane takes full responsibility" for what happened. There was never any attempt on his part, he added, to cast any disparity on the driving of Mr Kees.

"Mr O'Kane is truly remorseful for what has happened," said Mr Turkington, and that he has been "haunted him since".

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