Belfast Telegraph

Omagh bomb survivor sentenced for causing death of friend by careless driving

Gary McGillion outside court yesterday
Gary McGillion outside court yesterday

By Eamonn MacDermott

A survivor of the Omagh bombing who admitted causing the death of a man by careless driving has been sentenced to 12 months in prison suspended for two years and disqualified from driving for five years.

Gary Patrick McGillion (44) of Crocknacor Road in Omagh admitted causing the death of Eugene O'Brien in Newtownstewart on August 24, 2016.

He originally had been charged with causing death by dangerous driving but had been found not guilty by a jury.

As sentence was passed McGillion wept in the dock.

The court was told on the evening of October 24, 2016, the defendant drove from the Baronscourt Road onto the Strabane Road towards the centre of Newtownstewart town.

Along the road opposite Hamilton's Spar Shop the defendant's car struck Mr O'Brien as he walked across the road. The defendant stopped his car and immediately put Mr O'Brien into the recovery position.

An ambulance crew was called to the scene and transported the victim to Altnagelvin Hospital from where he was later transferred to the intensive care unit in the Royal Victoria Hospital in Belfast, where he died from brain injuries on November 7.

After the accident the defendant was in shock. He told the police that he was driving home from work and that suddenly Mr O'Brien "came out of nowhere" and was struck by the front passenger side of the car.

Passing sentence Judge Philip Babington said the accident occurred at dusk and while 'lighting conditions were not perfect, they were very far from being imperfect.'

McGillion's car at the time of the accident was travelling between 34 and 38 mph and Judge Babington said experts were of the view the defendant had seen the deceased just before the collision.

At interview McGillion told police "he just stepped out... Just all of a sudden he appeared."

Judge Babington said, as regards the victim: "Nothing that this court can either say or do can in any way lessen their sadness and devastation at their loss."

The case was aggravated according to Judge Babington by McGillion' s previous convictions and by the fact that he had been convicted in 2018 of careless driving causing a collision.

In one of the reports drawn up on the defendant it was stated that he displayed "a cavalier attitude towards motoring laws."

A pre-sentence report said McGillion recognised "the gravity of his conduct and how his actions have impacted upon the O'Brien family."

It also noted he had expressed "genuine remorse".

The judge said of McGillion and his wife: "Both were badly injured in the Omagh bomb atrocity and both have undergone lengthy medical treatment which continues to this day."

He added: "There is no doubt that the defendant may have experienced significant trauma in his life but he caused very great grief to the O'Brien family circle.

"It is concerning that in the pre-sentence report it is confirmed that he can provide no explanation for his actions on the day in question."

He also said it was concerning that McGillion said he had difficulties at times in concentrating.

The judge said while the custody threshold had been passed in the case, there was "very considerable mitigation especially of a personal nature."

After imposing the 12 month suspended sentence the judge said about the fact McGillion had difficulty in concentrating: "I am concerned for the safety of those on our roads and therefore I am disqualifying you from driving for a period of five years."

He suggested before McGillion's licence was restored he should seek medical advice if he should be driving.

The defendant was the husband of Mrs Donna Marie McGillion, who along with the defendant was one of the 220 people injured in the explosion which killed 29 people including a woman who was pregnant with twins in the Omagh bombing.

Mrs McGillion and the defendant were shopping in Omagh on the afternoon of the explosion. They were due to have been married the following weekend and they were shopping for shoes for the defendant's twenty-one month old niece Brenda who was to have been their flower girl. Brenda was killed in the explosion.

The defendant was also seriously injured in the explosion. He spent eight weeks in hospital after the explosion and was treated for 35% third degree burns.

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