Tragic details of a road traffic accident in which a driver crashed almost head-on into a car killing his elderly mother have been disclosed.
The accident also injured a woman who was 19 weeks pregnant to such an extent that she lost her unborn child, Londonderry Crown Court heard yesterday.
Before the court was 48-year-old Noel Young, a part-time digger driver from Carraloan Road in Magherafelt.
He has pleaded guilty to causing the death of his 82-year-old mother Vera Young, who suffered from dementia, by driving without due care and attention.
He has also pleaded guilty to causing grievous bodily harm by driving without due care and attention to Warunee Doherty and to her father-in-law Bernard Doherty.
They, together with Mrs Doherty’s husband Brian Doherty, had just arrived in Northern Ireland and were on their way from Belfast International Airport to spend a family holiday together in Malin Town, Co Donegal, on the afternoon of August 2, 2015.
Prosecuting counsel Ciaran Murphy QC told Judge Philip Babington that as the car driven by Brian Doherty with his wife and father as passengers approached the junction of the Glenshane Road and Lurganagoose Road about three miles from Magherafelt, a Mitsubishi Warrior jeep driven by the defendant came across the lane and collided almost head-on with the Dohertys’ car causing it to spin off the road and into a ditch.
The impact speed between the two vehicles was approximately 60mph and the speed of the jeep driven by the defendant was relatively low as it crossed on to the main road.
Mr Murphy said that the defendant’s mother Vera sustained multiple internal injuries and died four days later in hospital. Warunee Doherty sustained multiple fractures to her left ankle and to her spine.
Bernard Doherty, who was a rear-seat passenger, sustained multiple rib fractures, a fracture of the sternum and a contusion of the right lung.
The prosecutor said although the defendant had no memory of the accident, “it appears to have been caused by gross inadvertence by him. He failed to see entirely the oncoming driver and for that there is no clear explanation. This is an absolute tragedy for all concerned”.
Defence barrister Brian McCartney QC said it was an undeniable tragedy for which there was no explanation. He said there were no aggravating features such as alcohol, speed or dangerous driving.
“There is no evidence of wilfulness. The defendant has accepted responsibility from the outset. He has expressed his remorse which is undeniable and his sense of loss extends to the Doherty family”, Mr McCartney said.
“He has been driving for almost 29 years with absolutely no blemish on his driving record. In the absence of any explanation it is clear he had a lapse that could only have lasted a few seconds”, he added.
Mr McCartney said the defendant has had several neuro-surgical procedures for aggressive tumours dating back to 2007.
“He should have been told then, because of his ongoing medical condition, not to drive. The DVLA guidelines should have been invoked in 2007. At no time was he ever advised by medical staff, by the DVLA nor by anyone else not to drive. A patient being treated for his type of illness should have been so advised”, Mr McCartney said.
Judge Babington said he pass sentence next Thursday and he released the defendant on continuing bail until then.