A remorseless speeding driver who wiped out four friends more than four years ago during a lunchtime spin to show off his new SRI car was jailed for seven years yesterday, and banned from driving for 12 years.
Jailing student Kurtis Armstrong (23) from Ivy Hill, Lisburn, Judge David Smyth QC said it was regretable that Armstrong still would not accept responsibility for the deaths of his friends, Graeme Waring (17), Ian Currie (18), and 19-year-olds Philip McMurray and Joseph McDonald.
Mr Leslie Currie, speaking outside Antrim Crown Court on behalf of the families, said their "grief and anguish has been compounded at times by the apparent reluctance of the driver to assume any responsibility or express any remorse". However, Mr Currie said the families were more than satisfied by the sentence and that "justice has been seen to be done. We think it is appropriate that the full rigour of the law has been applied in this case," he also said.
Their sons, all students at Lisburn Institute of Higher and Further Education, died when the speeding Vauxhall Corsa SRI, driven by Armstrong, smashed into trees, uprooting one of them, before landing on its roof in a second field. Judge Smyth said the day of the accident, February 24, 2004, was "a Tuesday no different from any other".
Then he described how a speeding Armstrong lost control of the car as it went up Wolf Hill, Ligoniel, and down Ballyhill Road.
The Corsa SRI became airborne after it crossed a verge, "impacted with the field a short distance from trees and collided with them.
"One stump took the passenger door off. One tree was uprooted and fractured and one tree had its bark de-brided. The car's rotation altered but it continued into the next field where it came to rest on its roof," said Judge Smyth.
Armstrong, added the judge, survived "no doubt because of the fact that the first impact occured on the passenger side".
Armstrong went on to give conflicting accounts, claiming he was only diving at 45mph, and even tried to blame one of his passengers for what occured.
Judge Smyth said the tragic accident had one main cause, speed and the dangerous manner in which the overladen car was being driven by Armstrong.
Judge Smyth went on to reject Armstrong's claims of driving within the speed limit.
"If he had been doing that speed this accident would not have occured."
He told Armstrong, had the accident occured three days later when the maximum was raised from 10 to 14 years, he would have been jailed for " eight, possibly nine years".