Belfast Telegraph

Speeding Belfast driver mowed down RTE crew like bowling ball, court told

By Ashleigh McDonald

A car driven too quickly by a 25-year-old Belfast man lost control, mounted a kerb and knocked five members of a film crew down "like a bowling ball", a court heard yesterday.

The RTE crew were shooting a documentary close to Boucher Road in Belfast on November 30, 2015 when the car driven by Hugh McGrattan struck a kerb and collided with a group of up to 15 people on the footpath.

The collision, which occurred in the Falcon Road/Apollo Road area, resulted in five cast and crew members sustaining serious injuries.

Belfast Crown Court heard one woman sustained a spinal cord injury, suffered paralysis from the chest down and now requires a wheelchair.

Others seriously hurt in the incident have been left with life-changing injuries.

McGrattan, from Whiterock Drive, admitted at the scene that he was speeding and told a police officer: "I thought I was going to tip over." Diagnosed with post traumatic stress disorder, he hasn't driven since.

He appeared at Belfast Crown Court after admitting five counts of causing grievous bodily injury by dangerous driving.

A Crown prosecutor said that in the direct aftermath of the collision some of those injured were stuck under McGrattan's vehicle and the fencing which had been brought down by his car.

CCTV footage indicated that at one point McGrattan was travelling between 52 and 69mph in a 30mph area.

Witnesses described McGrattan's silver Skoda Fabia driving at excess speeds on the road, and due to this speed, McGrattan failed to negotiate a bend. They said the car was speeding when it hit the kerb, mounted the footpath and ploughed into a group of around 15 people on the footpath wearing hi-vis clothing.

One woman said she saw the car drive straight at the pedestrians and said it was "like a bowling ball" when it struck the group, while another said the car was "like a snow plough with people being swept away". The prosecutor told Her Honour Judge McCaffrey that the collision - which occurred close to the Hovis Bakery entrance - occurred at night in an industrial area which was well lit due to the film crew.

The prosecutor concluded by saying the incident occurred due to McGrattan driving at "grossly excessive" speeds.

Defence barrister Luke Curran said McGrattan had been diagnosed with PTSD as a result of the incident, and suffers from nightmares where he wakes up and believes he has killed someone.

Telling the court McGrattan hasn't driven since and will only get in a car if his father is driving, Mr Curran spoke of the significant impact the collision has had on McGrattan, who deeply regrets what happened in November 2015.

Mr Curran said on the evening in question McGrattan was doing a friend a good deed by showing him where Adelaide train halt was, and pointed out this wasn't a case of bravado or showing off, but rather a case of "very significant misjudgment". He said McGrattan "struggles with the enormity of it".

Accepting his client's speed prior to losing control was "excessive", Mr Curran said forensic evidence suggested that when he hit the kerb, McGrattan's speed at that stage was around 25mph.

Judge McCaffrey said she would pass sentence next week.

McGrattan was released on continuing bail.

Belfast Telegraph

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