Belfast Telegraph

Tommy Flanagan's widow tells of grief as driver banned for life over fatal smash

By Gerry McLaughlin

An elderly Co Fermanagh widow has told a court she could not go to the funeral of her husband of 57 years because of the injuries she suffered in a horror smash in Sligo.

Tommy Flanagan (84), from Ballinamallard, died after a van collided with the car his wife, Marie, was driving at Lugnadeffa, Ballisodare, Co Sligo, on St Patrick's Day, 2015.

Gerry Higgins (56), of McGuinness Court, Aclare, Co Sligo, was jailed for four years, suspended for 10 years, at yesterday's circuit court. He was also was banned from driving for life.

It comes after he pleaded guilty to dangerous driving causing the death of Mr Flanagan. He also pleaded guilty to dangerous driving at Templeboy.

In an emotional victim impact statement read out in court, Marie Flanagan said: "I was not able to go to his funeral.

"We were married for 57 years, we were always together and I miss his company each and every day and feel very lonely.

"He was the true heart of our family and was taken away in such a tragic and sudden way. It has left a void that can't be filled.

"I have had grief counselling, but nothing to help me come to terms with the loss of Thomas."

Judge Keenan Johnson said it was a horrific experience for Mrs Flanagan, who was still "living a nightmare without her husband". He added: "Nothing this court can do will undo the wrong that was perpetrated on her."

The elderly county Fermanagh couple were on their way to a holiday home in Enniscrone when the collision happened.

Sligo Circuit Court was told that Mrs Flanagan (78) was driving slowly and cautiously near a turn-off for Coolaney when Higgins came around a left-hand bend on the wrong side of the road in his red Peugeot Partner van and struck the Toyota Auris "head-on".

The defendant was slumped at the wheel, the court heard.

The impact sent the Flanagans' car spinning around. It went over a bridge and into water, before a fire crew cut the top off the car and rescued the couple. However, Mr Flanagan died from his injuries.

Sentencing Higgins, Judge Johnson said he believed Mr Flanagan was "a man of reason, fairness and forgiveness". "I don't believe the late Thomas Flanagan would want any more suffering to be endured by any of the parties as a consequence of this sentence," he added.

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