A Newtownbutler woman has called for stiffer punishments, after the drunk driver who killed her son served just 18 weeks in prison.
June Curran’s son Kevin McChesnie, 17, died when the car he was a passenger in crashed into a tree at Newtownbutler in 2008.
It was driven by another teenager who was driving under the influence of alcohol.
“The driver had just moved into Newtownbutler,” she said. “Kevin would not have known him very long and he just got into the car with him.”
The driver, who she prefers not to name, should not have been driving because he had no insurance, no tax and no licence and had bought the car not a week before for £60.
“A couple of people saw him in the car that day and told him he should not have been driving in it. But he just laughed at them,” she said.
“They got into the car and went to go to Clones to a disco. But on the way about two miles out the road they hit a tree. “
“The car spun and it fired my son out the window into the field. He was not wearing a seatbelt.”
He took five cardiac arrests on the way to the hospital in the ambulance.
Tests showed no brain activity and the life support machine was turned off the next day. He was 17 and had just finished his first year of 3.5 year course to train as a lorry mechanic.
“The driver said to the judge to take him down and that he knew he was going to get prison,” she said.
He was sentenced to nine months in jail. However, with 50% remission, plus time served on remand, she said: “He did 18 weeks.”
“He hurt his jaw but he wasn’t injured,” she said. “He wasn’t kept in hospital.”
The driver asked if he could attend the wake. June said he could visit the wake but that she could not look at him.
He also attended the funeral.
“I wanted him to see what he has done. That is why I wanted him to come to the house, so he could see what he had done.”
“He said to my husband – ‘I wish I could swap places’.
“He didn’t set out to do it.”
June thought to herself about him: “You have got a lot of making up to do. You have to live the life of two people and turn your life around.”
The driver was the same age as Kevin, but was not in education or training.
“Kevin had everything ahead of him. He was doing this course and doing so well and he was also working on a farm as well,” she said.
“He was a real quiet child even growing up. He was never really in any trouble.
“He had too much energy to sit in a classroom.
“And no matter what he did with his hands he was good.”
The teenager’s interests ranged across fishing, farming, lorry mechanics and cars.
A neighbour had taken him on part-time on a farm.
Her other son Oran has just started working with the same neighbour.
The farmer said as he agreed to take Oran on: “if he is half as good as his brother he will be a good one.”
It was really difficult to break the news of Kevin’s death to his brother and sister.
His sister Kourtni was five and asked – “‘Oh mummy, is he going to be any angel in heaven?’ And we said: yes.”
Brother Oran, meanwhile, who was six-and-a-half years old, felt the loss more personally because he was older.
“When we went down to meet the hearse at the end of the road to bring him into the house, Oran just collapsed and my husband had to lift him in his arms,” she said.
Oran was anxious about June travelling to work after that.
“‘Mummy, you are not going in a car or a bus?’ he would say to me.”
He had counselling to help him through his fears of losing his mother in a road crash.
Even though he was 11 years younger than Kevin, the two shared a bedroom
“Kevin was supposed to sleep in the top bunk as Oran was so young.
“But I used to go into them in the mornings and the two of them would be in the bottom bunk.”
Today she likes to keep busy.
“The thought is there every day - ‘I wonder what if?’
“What would Kevin be like now?”
Some of Kevin’s friends now have children.
“I think to myself - ‘I really should have that too’.”
At 48 she had hoped to be a young grandmother.
Eighteen weeks in jail did not seem very much for the driver who killed her son.
“It wasn’t, it definitely wasn’t,” she said.
The week before Kevin was killed, another drunk driver had killed a passenger in the same area.
In contrast to her case, however, this time the driver met every legal requirement to be on the road, apart from his alcohol level.
However the official sentence this driver was given was twice as long as the youth who killed her son, 18 months, compared to nine months.
“I found that it wasn’t fair.”
She added: “I would like to see them getting a longer sentence - along with the proper counselling to stop the incident playing on their minds.”
Instead of 18 weeks, as was handed down in her case, she suggests that such drivers should get 18 months in jail – with counselling, so that they can “turn their lives around”.
She added: “I know they don’t go out to do these things. And I also know I am never going to get over it.”
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