A 51-year-old Lithuanian lorry driver who caused the death of Co Tyrone man Sean McElwee in a head-on crash two years ago has been jailed for nine months.
Albertas Daskevicius, with an address in Bawn Court, Ballykelly, admitted his careless driving caused the death of 42-year-old Mr McElwee, a well-known grounds man at the Fr Rocks GAA club in Cookstown, on April 11, 2015.
He was driving his uninsured box lorry on the Melmont Road between Strabane and Sion Mills, when a 40-foot articulated lorry he was travelling behind, slowed down to turn left.
Instead of slowing, he pulled out into the path of Mr McElwee driving his Citroen Berlingo van, with his father in the front passenger seat.
At Dungannon Crown Court today, prosecuting QC Terrence Mooney said Mr McElwee had “absolutely no chance”.
However, he said while it was accepted it was careless driving, nevertheless the “sole cause” of the accident was the Lithuanian’s decision to overtake and to move onto the wrong side of the road, which “created a clear and obvious danger to oncoming traffic”.
Judge Neil Rafferty told Daskevicius through an interpreter, while he accepted he was “deeply remorseful” his momentary bad decision, although careless, was equally a bad case of driving which just fell short of dangerous. Mr Mooney revealed that Mr McElwee’s father later told police that on seeing Daskevicius’ lorry bearing down on them, he shouted to his son: “Where’s that eejit going”.
Mr McElwee snr added that the lorry “just come straight towards us” and his son had tried “to swerve left, but there was nowhere for him to go”.
From the outset Daskevicius admitted his guilt, said Mr Mooney, for the tragic accident which had such devastating consequences.
Defence lawyer John McManus said it was accepted that Daskevicius had “a single error in judgement”, and that “once he made that error there was nothing he could do to avoid that collision”.
“It was one single act which had such tragic consequences,” added Mr McManus, who said it was also accepted there were no aggravating features.
The lawyer said it was “quite clear that Mr Daskevicius is extremely remorseful for the devastation he has caused to this family” and that the guilt will continue to weigh heavily on him.
Judge Rafferty in his sentencing remarks acknowledged the hurt and devastation suffered by the family of Mr McElwee. He said the courts had always recognised and were aware that any sentence imposed may seem painfully inadequate compared to the loss of any family.
Daskevicius will serve nine months in custody, followed by nine months on licence. He was also banned from driving for 10 years.