Tyrone death crash driver Paul Nicholl over twice legal alcohol limit
A Co Tyrone man was two and a half times the legal drink drive limit when he killed a popular Donegal GAA fan in a head-on collision.
Omagh Crown Court heard that Paul Nicholl (50) lost control of his Suzuki car after hitting a kerb and careering into a car carrying Patsy McCroary, his wife and two children more than two years ago.
Nicholl, of Carnkenny Road, Newtownstewart, had pleaded guilty to causing the death of 62-year-old Mr McCroary by dangerous driving with excess alcohol and causing grievous bodily injury to his wife and children.
An avid GAA fan, Patsy McCroary was known affectionately as 'Donegal Patsy' because of his passion for his native team.
He lived in Castlederg but was originally from Upper Art, Castlefin. Just days before the horror smash, he attended the Dr McKenna Cup game between Donegal and Tyrone in Letterkenny and was described as "Donegal's number one supporter".
Simon Reid, prosecuting, told the court that on the morning of January 8, 2014, Mr McCroary was a front seat passenger in a blue Toyota Avensis car being driven by his son Padraig.
His wife Geraldine and their daughter Samanatha were rear seat passengers.
He said they had been travelling at 40mph towards Strabane on the Mellmount Road between Sion Mills and Victoria Bridge when the collision happened.
"As their car approached a left-hand bend, Padraig McCroary saw a vehicle coming towards them. It has crossed into their lane," said the prosecutor.
"He realised there was nothing he could do at that point. He was knocked out by the collision and the next thing he realised was people coming to assist him."
Judge Paul Ramsey heard that a female witness was driving away from Strabane and saw Nicholl's vehicle leave a side street.
"She noticed that as the defendant's vehicle approached a right hand bend, it strayed to the left, striking a kerb and going on to a grass verge.
"She said that he tried to correct his steering but strayed into the opposite lane, veering across the road and into the oncoming traffic, colliding with the McCroary car."
Emergency services found Nicholl still sitting in the vehicle.
"A police officer smelt intoxicating liquor coming from his breath." The officer saw a 12 pack of beer in the car.
The court heard a blood sample showed Nicholl was two and a half times the legal limit.
The defendant was later interviewed and said that he had stopped off at a bar that morning to have a couple of pints of beer.
He said that he had drunk three cans of beer the night before and had taken a diazepam tablet that morning.
Mr Reid said Padraig McCroary suffered a fracture to the sternum, seven broken ribs and three bone fractures to his foot.
His mother Geraldine suffered multiple spine fractures, a broken pelvis, rib fractures, a fracture to her lower left leg "and had to be treated by the trauma team" at Altnagelvin.
Her daughter Samantha had to be on life support after sustaining a fracture to her skull, fractures to her eye socket and nose and bruising to a lung.
The prosecution lawyer said Nicholl had no previous convictions for road traffic matters but had a criminal record for assaults and criminal damage.
Barrister Ivor McAteer, defending, said Nicholl had a long history of dealing with his "alcohol demons" and was "deeply remorseful" for causing the death of Mr McCroary and seriously injuring his wife and two children.
"He does not row back from his culpability and there is no trying to deflect or diluting the pain and hurt felt by the family of Mr McCroary.
"It is a heartfelt approach by him and I was specifically requested to say that."
Judge Ramsey QC said he wanted to reflect on legal submissions by both the prosecution and defence.
Remanding Nicholl back into custody, the judge said he would sentence him next week.