Belfast Telegraph

Paralysed cyclist says year ban for Northern Ireland pastor who mowed him down is 'a joke'

Elaine Adu
Elaine Adu
Mark Millar on his bike
Where the incident occurred on the Lisnevenagh Road in Co Antrim
Injuries to Mark’s spine
X-rays of Mark's spine
Mark undergoing physio
Claire Williamson

By Claire Williamson

A cyclist left paralysed from the waist down, and who remains in "chronic pain" after being hit by a car, has branded the sentence handed to the woman responsible a "joke".

Mark Millar (38) from Ballygowan, Co Down, suffered a catalogue of life-changing injuries on June 10 last year when he was halfway through taking part in the Ulster 100-mile time trial championships.

His spine was broken in four places and his spinal cord severed, leaving him paralysed.

The experienced cyclist was struck by Christian pastor Elaine Adu (47), originally from Scotland and now living at Greenvale Manor in Antrim.

She pleaded guilty to causing grievous bodily injury to Mr Millar by driving without due care and attention on the Lisnevenagh Road, Co Antrim, and to having a defective tyre - although that was ruled as not being a contributing factor to the incident.

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Mark Millar on his bike

She was ordered to complete 80 hours community service and handed a year-long driving ban.

Yesterday, Antrim Magistrates Court heard that Adu "struggles on a daily basis to accept the fact that as a result of her driving, a person has been left with life-changing injuries".

Now that the case is over, Adu "hopes a day will come when she can actually meet Mr Millar and apologise face-to-face".

Both Adu and Mr Millar had been heading towards Ballymena when his bike ended up under the car and he struck the bonnet.

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Where the incident occurred on the Lisnevenagh Road in Co Antrim

The court heard it was an overcast day and there was no issue over sunlight dazzling drivers. Adu was breathalysed and her phone and iPad were seized but all findings were negative.

Adu had been travelling at around 50mph and Mr Millar at around 25mph on the busy dual carriageway, according to estimations.

The pastor was interviewed by police but told officers "she couldn't explain how it occurred".

Deputy District Judge Liam McStay described it as a "tragic case" and said that "cyclists need the protection of the court".

He said Mr Millar "suffered terrible injuries" and the case "could not make it more plain to members of the public that we have to share the road and have to be aware of each other".

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Injuries to Mark’s spine

Mr Millar told the Belfast Telegraph he has no intention or interest in meeting Adu.

Reacting to the sentencing he said "one of us (cyclists) could easily have been killed that day".

He said: "I really hope this will help raise awareness for the safety of cyclists, there's a lot of motorists out there that need to wise up and keep their eyes on the road. It was a truly shocking bit of driving.

"And a one-year driving ban is a joke, one of us could easily have been killed that day. I most definitely wouldn't go as far as to say I was lucky... but I'm happy to have survived."

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X-rays of Mark's spine

Judges are bound by sentencing guidelines and must take into account mitigating circumstances, such as early guilty pleas, co-operation with police and remorse, as well as aggravating factors such as intent and excessive violence.

Mr Millar said he can't remember much from the day, but is very grateful for the medical staff who acted so quickly as he recalled the devastating list of injuries he suffered.

He said: "I was hit from behind by a Honda CRV, on a straighter piece of road you would be hard pushed to find.

"Although I was conscious, I can't remember much.

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Mark undergoing physio

"Luckily the paramedics were there within minutes and a spinal surgeon was at the scene via the Northern Ireland Air Ambulance.

"I was put into a coma and stabilised at the scene, then transported to the Royal Victoria Hospital via ambulance where they operated on my spine.

"It was broken in four places and my spinal cord severed, which means I'm paralysed from the waist down."

In addition, Mr Millar's hips were both dislocated and broken and required surgery.

He said: "The left acetabulum (socket) was in pieces and required stainless steel plates and screws to put it back together, this was only done a week later when I was fit for it."

He added: "Other injuries included a torn spleen, epidural haematoma to the neck, rib fractures and bruised lungs, fractured sternum and broken shoulder blade."

After three weeks he was transferred to Musgrave Park Spinal Unit where he spent most of July on bed rest.

He began physio and occupational therapy before being discharged home in September.

He said: "The doctors, nurses, physios and OTs (occupational therapists) were great, they helped me through a very traumatic time. I really can't thank them enough."

Mr Millar said he has had a lot of support from family and friends.

He faces full-time rehab for the foreseeable future but hopes to return to the sport as he has been competing in events over the last eight years, including Ireland's Ras Tailteann eight-day international cycling stage race and four Ironman Races.

He has competed as a racing and leisure cyclist for Belfast club Velo Cafe Magasin and as a triathlete for Olympian Triathlon Club. He had taken a break from racing to focus solely on long distance triathlons, one of which was supposed to take place three weeks after the incident.

He said: "I've been travelling back and forth from a private spinal unit in England since Christmas.

"We've had to make a lot of adaptations to our house to make it wheelchair accessible but it's great to be back home with my wife Agnieszka, she's been an absolute rock through all of this.

"Eventually I'd like to get back to sport, most likely para-triathlon and hand-cycling but I need to keep my expectations under control at the same time and focus on recovery for now.

"There's a long way still to go, I'm still in a lot of chronic pain but hopefully in time that'll settle."

It was through the support he received that inspired him to start fundraising for the Spinal Research charity.

He said: "It's a great charity that is developing many ways of making those suffering spinal cord injuries have a much better quality of life as there's a lot more to it than not being able to use your legs. I've been overwhelmed by the donations and messages of support received and I'm very grateful for that. We're up over £10k and it would be great to keep it going."

  • To support Mr Millar visit: www.justgiving.com/fundraising/markmillar5

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