A 73-year-old Co Antrim man who can’t remember causing a three-car crash that killed a retired businessman, has been freed after being ordered to complete 160 hours community service.
James Maurice Henderson, of Limehill Road, Lisburn, was also banned from driving for five years.
He had previously admitted his careless driving on the outskirts of Strabane in January last year caused the death of Alexander McEntee from Tullynaegish, Castleblaney, Co Monaghan, and also caused grievous bodily injury to his own wife, Hazel Henderson.
Freeing Henderson, Dungannon Crown Court Judge McReynolds told the pensioner his guilty plea had been of considerable ease and comfort to the grieving family of Mr McEntee.
The judge also told Henderson he’d shown clear remorse and regret for what he had done, and that it was a difficult sentencing exercise, but she had carefully considered all the factors in a case which all were agreed was in essence, a momentary lapse of attentiveness.
The head-on collision, on January 3, 2014, involving Mr Henderson’s black Range Rover and 65-year-old Mr McEntee’s red Jaguar car, and a third vehicle, a silver Audi A4, occured on a bend on the main A5 Mulvin Road, between Newtownstewart and Victoria Bridge three miles from Strabane.
Mr McEntee, who suffered internal injuries, died at the scene, despite efforts from a doctor who was behind one of the crashed vehicles.
Henderson’s wife Hazel suffered numerous fractures including that of the sternum, right rib, both wrists, left clavicle and to the lumbar vertebra.
The man in the Audi, which was travelling behind Mr McEntee, suffered a number of soft tissue injuries including swelling to his right hand.
Prosecution lawyer Simon Reid said the last thing Henderson remembered was paying for fuel at a Letterkenny filling station on the journey home from Donegal, until there “was a bang and glass coming in around him”.
Questioned at the scene all the pensioner could say was: “Oh my God ... that is wild ... I can’t take that in.”
“The possibility he fell asleep was raised with him, but due to his lack of memory was not able to assist ... It is not therefore possible to explain what happened to Mr Henderson that prevented him from maintaining his control as he went around the bend,” added Mr Reid.
Other motorists who witnessed the accident reported the Range Rover driving normally until reaching the bend in the road, when it began to veer into the opposite lane into the path of Mr McEntee’s car, a movement lasting one to two seconds.
Defence QC Gerald Simpson said he had been asked by the pensioner to again express his regret and remorse to the McEntee family, something which he had done from the outset.
It was clear also that Henderson will live with the tragic reminder, day by day, with the death he caused to Mr McEntee, and the injuries he caused his own wife.
There was no evidence, added Mr Simpson, that Henderson, with a clear and impeccable record, was guilty of erratic driving that day, or any suggestion of drink or drugs, by way of medication, playing any part in what happened.
Nothing illegal, said the lawyer, either of deliberate bad driving, or indication of continually drifting off, occured in the run-up to the incident. He said it was a case of momentary inattentiveness with no aggravating factors.