Belfast Telegraph

Man admits dangerous driving over car crash that killed eight

By Stephen Maguire

A Co Donegal man charged with dangerous driving causing the deaths of eight people in Donegal in 2010 has sensationally changed his plea to guilty.

The trial of Shaun Kelly was due to begin yesterday with defence barrister Peter Nolan saying it could last more than a week.

Kelly (25) of Hill Road, Buncrana, appeared at Letterkenny Circuit Court.

Members of the families of those who died in the crash outside Clonmany in Inishowen also attended.

The accident happened after a car driven by Kelly carrying seven passengers crashed into another vehicle being driven by an elderly man, killing him.

His Volkswagen Passat then rolled, killing the seven young men.

Kelly was the only survivor and was also seriously injured.

He initially pleaded not guilty to the charge shortly before 11am yesterday.

A jury panel of six men and six woman was then sworn in.

However, when the case was due to start, Kelly asked to be re-arraigned and changed his plea to guilty.

Judge O'Hagan released Kelly on his own bail until December 9. He ordered all the appropriate medical and other reports be carried out on Kelly.

Judge O'Hagan then addressed members of the families who had come to court.

He told them: "Something distressing but positive has happened and I hope it gives you some closure on the affair." He then informed them of Kelly's decision to plead guilty.

He asked that one member of each family provides a victim impact statement to be presented in the future.

He also asked each family to nominate one family member to read out that report at a future sitting.

The case was expected to last up to a week with a number of reports and expert testimonies due to be heard.

The case was mentioned last week at the opening day of the current Letterkenny Circuit Court sitting when state barrister Patricia McLoughlin requested a translator to aid an expert witness from Germany.

The death of the seven young men as well as the elderly man returning home from bingo has left a huge scar on the community of the Inishowen Peninsula, where all lived.

With this in mind, Judge O'Hagan revealed that the selection of possible jury members for yesterday's trial was made outside of the Inishowen area.

Despite this, a number of those selected to be on the jury were excused after it was heard they knew relatives of those killed in the crash.

Those killed on he night of the World Cup final in 2010 were Hugh Friel (66) of Urris, Clonmany; Eamon McDaid (22) of Ballymagan, Buncrana; Mark McLaughlin (21) of Ballinahone, Fahan; Paul Doherty (19) of Ardagh, Ballyliffin; Ciaran Sweeney (19) of Ballyliffin; PJ McLaughlin (21) of Rockstown, Burnfoot; James McEleney (23) of Meenaduff, Clonmany and Damien McLaughlin (21) of Umricam, Buncrana.

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