Magherafelt drink driver sparked police helicopter search after head-on crash

PSNI helicopter
PSNI helicopter

A Magherafelt man was almost three times the limit when he caused a head on collision with a lorry, a court has heard.

Raymond Alan George Watterson, 48, from Greenvale Park, was appearing at court on Wednesday following arrest on a bench warrant.

Courts

Courts

Mr Craig Patton, defending, told East Tyrone Magistrate’s Court that his client had failed to attend his meetings with the Probation Service and had also not attended court for sentencing.

He said that Mr Watterson presented with “serious underlying mental health issues”.

The defendant was involved in a collision with a lorry around 8am on March 7 2014on Cookstown Road just outside Moneymore.

Witnesses said that Mr Watterson’s car had crossed into the oncoming lane and collided head-on with a lorry.

They also said that he had appeared drunk but had fled the scene and made off into a nearby field.

A subsequent search by police on foot could not find him and a helicopter was required to investigate his whereabouts.

They finally discovered the defendant hiding under the treeline.

He failed a breath test and later provided a lower evidential sample of 94mg of alcohol in 100ml of breath - a figure almost three times the legal limit.

Mr Watterson made no answer to any questions under interview but an analysis of the car airbag proved that the DNA profi le belonged to the defendant.

He was released on bail but failed to answer when required leading officers to visit his home. He later turned up at the station drunk and demanding to know why the police were looking for him.

Mr Patton called the incident a “truly terrifying ordeal” for the lorry driver and said that his client was well aware of the sentencing powers of the court.

He described how Mr Watterson was going through a divorce and how it had “caused untold stress” which had led him to consult with a mental health team on a daily basis.

However, he added that his client had “completely failed to cope” and had taken to drink.

District Judge John Meehan imposed sentences totalling seven months which he suspended for three years.

He also handed down a five year driving ban.

Charges of driving while unfit and failure to stop following a collision were withdrawn by a lawyer from the PPS.