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28 Jun 2022

Man thrown seven feet in air when struck by van in Offaly incident

Man thrown seven feet in air when struck by van in Offaly incident

The sentencing hearing took place at Tullamore Courthouse

A YOUNG Offaly sportsman was thrown seven feet in the air when he was hit by a van on the roadside in Cappincur, Tullamore Circuit Court was told.

Details of the injuries sustained by college student Barry Mooney were given during a sentencing hearing before Judge Keenan Johnson.

He imposed a four-year driving ban on Arvyda Bukanas, 53, 14 Kilbride Way, Clara, who had previously admitted careless driving, causing serious bodily harm, to Mr Mooney on September 4, 2017.

Gda Sharon Barron told the hearing that when she went to the scene of a collision at about 9.30pm that evening she saw a van overturned and an Eircom pole on the ground.

Gda Barron said Mr Mooney, aged 22 at the time, was out watering flowers at his property when Mr Bukanas' vehicle crossed the white line after failing to take a corner properly, striking the injured party and the pole.

In a statement to gardai, Mr Mooney said he saw the van coming from the Ballinagar direction and knew he was “in trouble”, dropped the hose, jumped and landed in the garden next door.

Despite his sprint and jump the van hit him and launched him over a hedge about seven feet high and his right leg was completely dislocated.

Gda Barron told the court Mr Bukanas passed a breath alcohol test, there was no activity on his phone and his vehicle passed an inspection.

The weather had been dry but it was dark and the driver said he had been blinded by the lights of an oncoming vehicle.

A forensic collision report concluded that driver error was a contributing factor to the collision.

In his statement, Mr Bukanas said he had been travelling from Edenderry to O'Connor Park in Tullamore that night as part of his work as a security officer and he normally worked 7pm to 7am shifts.

The court was also told that luckily for Mr Mooney, an ambulance happened to be passing at the time and it stopped to help him.

Medical reports showed the victim's knee was dislocated and a ligament was ruptured, resulting in Mr Mooney's ambulation being restricted for three months and poor foot function for six months.

Because of a contusion to his lung, surgery was delayed. He became depressed afterwards, a psychological report said, but his progress was said to be excellent since.

The psychological report said the man's determination was remarkable and he had completed his Master's.

However, the loss of sport had a huge impact on him and he had also lost out on social connections with his peers.

Gda Barron said Mr Mooney was not present in court and now worked in Dublin from Monday to Friday.

In a victim impact report, Mr Mooney said he fully accepted that what happened was an accident, and a fact of life that could happen to anyone, but he was angry and struggled to understand why the driver had not apologised to him.

The court was also told Mr Bukanas had been convicted of drink-driving in 2007 and being drunk-in-charge of a vehicle in 2006, convictions which resulted in him being disqualified for periods of five and two years. He had not come to garda attention since.

In his evidence, Mr Bukanas apologised for what he had done and said he had not done so in person because if he was the victim he would not like to receive an apology.

He said he should have been more careful and said he was going from one alarm call to another and the second one had been waiting for one hour.

Though he was 15 years living in Tullamore, he had only taken that road twice before and it was narrow with a lot of bends.

A native of Lithuania, he had been blinded by the oncoming vehicle and had not seen Mr Mooney who was not wearing a high visibility jacket.

He needed to drive to keep his job, he said, adding that he was separated with two adult children and he supported his mother in Lithuania, visiting her three to four times a year and giving her between €1,000 and €1,500 each time.

Asked by Shane Geraghty, BL, for the DPP, if he was indifferent to Mr Mooney, a man who played Under 21 hurling for his county and had won athletics medals at national level, Mr Bukanas said he had not seen him that night and would write a letter of apology to him.

Asking for leniency in a case where the maximum sentence would be two years in prison, a €10,000 fine and a four-year driving ban, Stephen Byrne, BL, said there had been an early plea and though there was driver error, there were no other aggravating factors and the speed of the vehicle could not be determined.

Judge Johnson said he had been driving at a speed which exceeded his ability to stop. It would take some impact to fracture a pole and it was clear he was in a rush.

Road safety should be paramount in jobs like his and the alarm call could have waited, even if it was an inconvenience.

Mr Byrne said a disqualification would result in the man losing his job and a probation report, prepared in advance of the sentencing hearing, made it clear he regretted what had happened.

Judge Johnson said Mr Mooney had to be driven up and down to Maynooth College by his parents after the accident and it was an amazing achievement for him to got his Master's.

He was well on the road to recovery from depression following cognitive behaviour therapy but it was unlikely he would be able to return to his pre-accident levels of sport.

Mr Bukanas had completed a restorative driving course since and he would impose a four-year disqualification and no further order.

He said the case before him was one where the consequences of disqualification were far greater than they would be for someone who did not drive for a living.

Mr Bukanas, who was insured, was ordered to write the letter of apology within 10 days and the driving ban is to come into effect in six months.

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