A man who killed two friends after downing several drinks and then crashing into a lamppost has been jailed for five years and banned from driving for 15 years.
Drunk-driver Dermot Dowd, 24, was behind the wheel when he lost control of a car outside Ballybofey killing Kiara Baird, aged 19 and Maria Wallace, aged 38.
Dowd initially tried to claim that Ms Wallace, a mother-of-three, was driving the Citroën C3 car which crashed at Glenfin Road just after 4pm on September 21st, 2016.
He later admitted drinking for hours in a local bar with the two women before getting behind the wheel.
Letterkenny Circuit Court heard how both women had pleaded with Dowd to slow down but he continued to drive dangerously.
Ms Baird died at the scene while Ms Wallace died a short time later in hospital after both had been thrown out of the car during the horrific crash.
Judge John Aylmer sentenced Dowd to six years for dangerous driving causing death but suspended the last 12 months of the sentence stating the offence to be at the upper end of the scale.
He also banned him from driving for fifteen years.
On the charge of drink-driving, Dowd was sentenced to a further four months in jail but this is to run concurrently.
The charges of driving without a license, driving while uninsured and another dangerous of dangerous driving were taken into account.
Dressed in a grey tracksuit, Dowd showed no emotion when the sentence was passed down.
Judge Aylmer expressed his condolences to both the Baird and Wallace families who were in court.
The day on which the women were killed, September 21st, 2016, was the official ‘European Day Without a Road Death
This was a campaign supported by the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport Shane Ross TD, An Garda Síochána, the Road Safety Authority (RSA) and TISPOL to support European Day Without A Road Death, known as Project EDWARD.
The initiative had been organised by TISPOL, the Traffic Police network in Europe, and its aim is that nobody would die on the roads of Europe on that day.
Dowd, of Donegal Road, Ballybofey, pleaded guilty last Tuesday to dangerous driving causing the women’s deaths, dangerous driving, drink-driving, driving without insurance and driving without a license.
The court heard how both women had been studying a course with the Education Training Board (ETB) and had decided to go for a couple of drinks in Bonner’s Bar in Ballybofey.
They met Dowd in the bar and they began drinking together.
Around 4pm, all three got into Ms Wallace’s car and CCTV footage showed Dowd having a number of near misses before travelling out the Glenfin Road.
A couple of minutes later he was to lose control of the car, hit a footpath and then strike a lamppost.
Garda forensic evidence revealed that after it had rained, the road became dry and that weather was not a factor in the crash.
Ms Wallace’s car was also in a serviceable condition and was not a factor in the crash on the road which is governed by a 60 kmph speed limit.
The families of the two dead women sat in court listening to the harrowing details of how their loved ones died.
In a victim impact statement, Kiara Baird’s mother Tracy told how they had moved from Dublin to Donegal to start a new life as they felt their neighbourhood was getting rough.
She told how her daughter was a little naive and innocent and took people at face value but how she had the most beautiful smile and was always so happy.
She said her life had changed forever since she lost her first-born child.
“There will always be a big part of me missing with her gone. I really could never express how much I miss and love her, and how lost we all are without her.
“I have lost people in my life who I have truly cared about, but the loss of Kiara was nothing I have ever experienced.
“It’s like something broke into my chest and just ripped out my heart,” she said.
Maria Wallace’s mum Mary McGonagle’s victim impact statement was also read into court.
She said that all she wanted was justice for her daughter.
“For me there is no pills or operation I could have to heal my broken heart.
“All I do now is stand beside Maria’s grave and cry alone. I would have given anything to keep my coffin in her room to be near her and I still wish I could,” she said.
Further victim impact statements were read on behalf of Kiara’s dad Andrew Blake while a poem by Maria’s brother Michael was also read out.
His barrister Mr Colm Smyth, SC, said his client had often wondered why he was not killed in the accident.
“He is troubled by the fact that he survived this accident and his two passengers did not.
“He full accepts full responsibility and that he needs to be punished. But regardless of the sentence, he will be doing the sentence for the rest of his life,” he said.
The court was also told that Dowd has 30 previous convictions for a range of offences including theft and the sale and supply of drugs but has no convictions for traffic offences.