Belfast Telegraph

Driver's 'grievous mistake' caused tragic death of man

By Michael Donnelly

A father-of-two wept yesterday as a court heard how his momentary lapse of attention whilst driving on a cold, wet winter's night caused the death of a 50-year-old man.

Omagh man Kieran McSorley was killed outright when the van in which he was a passenger was hit by the Toyota Hilux pick-up being driven by 29-year-old Eamon Patrick O'Kane, outside Ballygawley, on December 17, 2015.

O'Kane, from Streefe Road, also Omagh, who was given 240 hours community service and banned from driving for two years, had pleaded guilty to causing death by careless driving of the "much-loved husband and father".

Judge Neil Rafferty QC told Dungannon Crown Court that it was one of the most "tragic and difficult cases" he has had to deal with, however, he was "absolutely satisfied that a non-custodial sentence was warranted". He added: "I am simply struck by how the lives of two families have, in many ways, been absolutely destroyed by a momentary lack of attention and if there is any good that can come from this, it is that people have to realise how dangerous roads actually are".

Empathising with Mr McSorley's family in their loss and praising their "quiet dignity", Judge Rafferty explained how he had to follow the set guidelines in determining the appropriate sentence.

And echoing the Court of Appeal, the judge said that in such cases any custodial sentence would be for just a few weeks or months.

However, he said that while O'Kane was guilty of committing a "grievous mistake", he had "expressed great remorse and guilt at the thought of the pain that the victims are going through".

Earlier prosecution QC Jackie Orr told how O'Kane was giving his grandmother a lift in his pick-up when for some reason the Toyota veered across the road into the path of the van driven by Stephen Kees and in which Mr McSorley was a passenger.

Ms Orr said the Toyota, ended up on its side by a grass verge, trapping O'Kane's grandmother inside, and at the time a distraught O'Kane admitted he was tired, but accepted: "It's my fault, I looked down, or glanced down", after his grandmother had touched his arm.

The lawyer added prior to the tragic accident there were no concerns about O'Kane's driving nor was there any evidence of him using his mobile phone. He was sober and carried a full licence and insurance.

Ms Orr said the death of Mr McSorley had struck many, in particular his wife Donna, whose moving victim impact statement outlined that while he was described as "a statistic" in being the 69th fatality on that Omagh Road, in her words: "Just as I was his number one, he was my number one and always will be".

Defence lawyer Ian Turkington said that his express instructions were to "make it crystal clear that Mr O'Kane takes full responsibility" for what happened. There was never any attempt on his part, he added, to cast any doubt on the driving of Mr Kees.

"Mr O'Kane is truly remorseful for what has happened," said Mr Turkington, and the accident has "haunted him since".

He added, however, that O'Kane was acutely aware that "anything he is suffering pales into insignificance to that of Mrs McSorley and family".

Mr Turkington said that while O'Kane must be punished for his "momentary inattention, which led to just the most overwhelming consequences" his driving and events of this evening "must stand in isolation" and be set against his clear record with "not a single blemish or penalty point".

Belfast Telegraph

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