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Tyrone drink-driver Paul Nicholl gets five years for death of Donegal man Patsy McCroary

Crash killed dad and left his family badly injured

By Michael Donnelly

Published 11/05/2016

The family of Patsy McCroary leaving court yesterday after seeing killer driver Paul Nicholl jailed for five years
The family of Patsy McCroary leaving court yesterday after seeing killer driver Paul Nicholl jailed for five years
Patsy McCroarty
Paul Nicholl

A Co Tyrone man who was two-and-a-half times the drink-drive limit when he killed popular Donegal GAA fan Patsy McCroary in a head-on collision has been sentenced to five years in prison and banned from the road for six years.

Judge Paul Ramsey told 50-year-old Paul Nicholl his lifelong alcohol abuse had led to the death of another human being.

The Omagh Crown Court judge said while he could accept Nicholl's early guilty plea, his remorse, lack of criminal driving record and the fact he himself was injured, he could not "overlook the very high reading" of his alcohol level.

Nicholl, of Carnkenny Road in Newtownstewart, had pleaded guilty to causing the death of the 62-year-old avid GAA fan, known affectionately as 'Donegal Patsy', by careless driving with excess alcohol, and causing grievous bodily injury to his wife and children.

"The McCroary family are not the first, nor sadly will they be the last, as we have had poignant reminders in recent times of the devastation such offences cause," Judge Ramsey said.

He added he had received "eloquent, moving and heartrending" victim impact reports from the family which spoke volumes about Mr McCroary as a husband and father.

His wife Geraldine said she still missed him, "as do the children. Our lives have not been the same". His son Padraig commented: "I was his only son and miss him so much."

The court heard Nicholl lost control of his Suzuki car after hitting a kerb and careering into the vehicle carrying Mr McCroary, his wife and two children in January 2014.

Originally from Upper Art, Castlefin, Mr McCroary had been living in Castlederg. Just days before the horror smash he was hailed as "Donegal's number one supporter" during the Dr McKenna Cup game between Donegal and Tyrone in Letterkenny.

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 driven by Padraig.

Geraldine and their daughter Samantha were rear seat passengers.

He said they were travelling at 40mph towards Strabane on the Melmount 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 had crossed into their lane," Mr Reid said.

"He realised that 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."

A female witness described seeing Nicholl trying to "correct his steering but strayed into the opposite lane, veering across the road and into oncoming traffic, colliding with the McCroary car".

A blood sample taken from Nicholl revealed a reading of 204 milligrammes of alcohol to 100 millilitres of blood - two-and-a-half times the legal limit.

Nicholl later told police during interview he had gone to a bar that morning to have a couple of pints and while on his way back home stopped off at a shop and bought a 12-pack of beer and some sausage rolls, "but had no recollection after that".

The court also heard that although taken to the accident and emergency department at Altnagelvin Hospital for treatement, Mr McCroary "sadly, despite the efforts to save his life, didn't recover from his injuries".

Padraig suffered a fractured sternum, seven broken ribs and three fractures to his foot.

Geraldine had multiple spine fractures, a broken pelvis, rib fractures, and a fracture to her lower left leg.

Samantha had to be "put into an induced coma and on a life support machine" after a fracture to her skull, fractures to her eye socket and nose, along with a contusion to her lung.

Defence lawyer Ivor McAteer 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.

Nicholl will serve two-and-a-half years in prison, followed by two-and-a-half years on licence.

Belfast Telegraph

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