A man who drove the wrong way down the N7 dual carriageway in the early hours of the morning causing a crash which killed one man and seriously injured two more has been jailed for six years.
Thomas Doran (29) had been spotted driving dangerously by gardaí in Tallaght before the collision but they had stopped the pursuit as it was too unsafe to continue.
Doran drove 700 metres down the N7 in the wrong direction colliding head on with another car, killing the driver, Mr Anatolie Butucel, and seriously injuring the passenger Mr Serghei Grigoras. Doran’s uncle Mr Patrick Connors, who was in the car with him, was also seriously injured.
Doran was uncooperative at the scene and refused to give his details.
Gardai were unable to obtain a specimen for testing from Doran, who was also seriously injured in the crash, as doctors at the hospital said life preserving treatment was more important at that time.
Mr Butucel and Mr Grigoras were work colleagues who were travelling home that night. Mr Butucel passed away at the scene from multiple traumatic injuries. Mr Grigoras, a passenger in his car, spent seven months in hospital and continues to rehabilitate from his life changing injuries.
Mr Connors, who was getting a lift home with his nephew, could not remember the crash.
The court heard Doran was “self-medicating” on a “cocktail” of substances after his father’s death earlier that year to such an extent he was unsure how his uncle had come to be in the car.
Doran of Clonskeagh Road, Ranelagh, pleaded guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to dangerous driving causing the death of Mr Butucel and causing serious bodily harm to Mr Grigoras and Mr Connors at N7 Naas dual carriage way on September 21, 2020.
Doran, who has 64 previous convictions including priors for dangerous and drunk driving, was on bail and disqualified from driving for ten years at the time of the crash.
Judge Melanie Greally said that nature of Doran’s driving that night was “so extreme that death or serious injury was an inevitability”.
She said Mr Butucel is survived by his ex-wife and two daughters. She said it was clear from their victim impact statement that he was a devoted father, both financially and emotionally.
“His daughter laments for the time she did not get to spend with him and the times she has been denied in her future with her father,” Judge Greally said.
She noted from Mr Grigoras victim impact statement the “enormous extent to which his life had been impacted” by his injuries.
“He had great hopes and plans for his future, particularly his future in Ireland,” Judge Greally said before adding that Mr Grigoras’s future opportunities have been considerably reduced now.
The judge accepted that Doran had a difficult childhood in which both alcohol and domestic abuse featured. She said the death of his father in June 2020 “led to emotional turmoil for him due to conflicting emotions” and he binged on both alcohol and drugs in an attempt to overcome this.
She further accepted that a cognitive function assessment placed him in the extremely low range, his education was curtailed and he has no history of employment.
She set a headline sentence of eight years but took into account Doran’s guilty plea, expression of remorse, including the fact that he €1,500 in court for Mr Grigoras, his adverse life experiences, poor mental health and addictions.
Judge Greally sentenced Doran to six and half years in prison with the final six months suspended on strict conditions including that he engage with the Probation Service for 12 months upon his ultimate release from prison. She also disqualified him from driving for 20 years.
Doran asked to speak at the end of the hearing and said: “I just want to say I am very very sorry, deeply sorry.”
Garda Kevin Coller told Antonia Boyle BL, prosecuting, that the silver Volkswagan Passat driven by Doran had been seen earlier in the evening driving in a dangerous manner in Tallaght. He said gardai had initially followed the car but the pursuit was quickly stood down as it was too dangerous.
Gda Coller said Doran drove onto the N7 driving in-bound on the out-bound lane.
A collision report outlined that he entered the N7 against the flow of traffic in an apparent attempt to evade gardai. He then drove 700 meters on the wrong side of the road before colliding with the Toyota Yaris. There was a slight bend which obscured the view of both drivers.
The report indicated that Doran, who was travelling northbound in the southbound lane, could have turned around at any point in the 700m prior to the crash. The car was estimated to be travelling at 128 kmph in a 100 kmph zone.
Mr Butucel and Mr Grigoras were work colleagues who were travelling home that night. Mr Grigoras, who was a front seat passenger, said the accident happened quickly while he was using his phone and he did not remember much about it. He felt the force of the impact and blacked out.
The driver of another car travelling on the road described the crash as being “like an explosion”, loud and noisy with debris flying everywhere.
A garda who arrived at the scene said Mr Butucel was still breathing when he arrived but stopped within five minutes and no longer had a pulse. Mr Grigoras was taken to hospital.
Another garda described Doran hanging out the passenger side of the Passat and Mr Connors in the back, both were breathing. They were extracted by the fire brigade and brought to hospital.
At the scene Doran was uncooperative, refused to give his details and told personnel to “fuck off.”
Doran, who had significant pelvis injuries, an injured arm and a possible fracture to the base of his skull was agitated and non-compliant at the hospital. A nurse said she could smell alcohol.
Gardai asked if a specimen could be taken from Doran but were told he was too badly injured and preservation of life was more important at that stage. He left hospital of his own volition against doctors’ orders and was arrested on October 8, 2020
Patrick Connors, Doran’s uncle, said he had been getting a lift home with his nephew and could not remember what happened. He said he suffered broken bones, was in a lot of pain and signed himself out of hospital despite being told he had been in a coma for three weeks.
Mr Grigoras underwent emergency surgery for life threatening injuries and spent seven months in hospital with further time in rehabilitation. He told the court that as well as physical effects such as high level fatigue, pain and cognitive issues he has been unable to work and his future is precarious.
The daughter and former wife of Mr Butucel in Moldova submitted victim impact statements outlining that he had gone too soon and too young, leaving his daughter distraught, confused and angry.
Gda Coller agreed with Michael Bowman SC, defending, that Doran spent two weeks in hospital and suffered a broken pelvis, hip and arm, only recently getting out of a wheelchair.
Mr Bowman handed in a psychological report outlining there had been violence and instability in Doran’s childhood home and he suffered serious mental health issues from the age of 12 years old.
He said Doran struggled to cope with pressures within his life and turned to cannabis. After his father passed away in June 2020, he self-medicated and was under a cocktail of substances to the extent he was unsure how his uncle ended up in the vehicle.
Mr Bowman also outlined a letter of apology from Doran who said what he had done was unforgivable and he accepts for responsibility for his actions. He said he wanted to apologise to those he had caused pain to and said it would never happen again.
He said Doran wants to fix his life but needs help. He said he wants to make amends going forward for what he has done. He said his client appears to “have had an awakening.”
Counsel asked the court to take into account Doran’s guilty plea and his “genuine and heartfelt” letter of apology. He said Doran’s family had brought €1,500, which was all the money they had available, to court as a token gesture.
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