Driver who killed popular GAA coach is jailed and banned

November 6, 2020

A father-of-three who spent that day in pubs before crashing into and killing a GAA coach traveling to a children’s training session has been jailed for three and a half years and banned from driving for 15 years.

Aaron McColgan fled from the scene of the crash in Malin, Co Donegal which claimed the life of father-of-three John ‘Rustard’ McLaughlin.

The tragic 38 year-old-accountant was returning from work around 6pm on the evening of February 20th, 2017 to go to Under 16 training at Malin GAA Club.

However, Aaron McColgan, who had visited at least three pubs earlier in the day, crossed a continuous white line in his Audi A4 car killing Mr McLaughlin almost instantly at Strandhead, Malin.

McColgan, of Culkeeny, Malin, then aged 25, fled the scene but was spotted and arrested by Gardai on their way to the scene.

He was arrested and failed a breath and urine sample.

Mr McLaughlin’s heartbroken wife Mags Mulhall gave a harrowing victim impact statement about the loss of her husband.

Ms McLaughlin, who was heavily pregnant at time, spoke of the grief and unimaginable circumstances of having to give birth alone to the couple’s third child.

She spoke of how John was simply a “good citizen” who helped anyone he could.

She told of going to visit her beloved husband’s graveside before the birth of their third child when he should have been in the hospital with her.

Throughout her heartwrenching statement, Ms Mulhall consistently said: “If only Aaron McColgan had behaved differently.”

The late John McLaughlin. Pic by Northwest Newspix.

The first time her youngest child saw his daddy’s graveside was when he was being christened.

She said she has no answers for her children when they ask her if their daddy is still working in heaven, can they go to visit daddy in heaven, why can’t daddy wake up and why did daddy crash?

She said that as a single parent now making all the parental decisions is not easy adding “Helping to make father’s day cards to place on his grave was not supposed to be part of our adventure. The children long for their daddy every day, knowbody else can ever be their daddy, they had so little time with him. If only Aaron McColagn had behaved differently.

“Nobody has the same unconditional love as you have for your husband. I miss his company, his intimacy and affection. I miss his honesty and integrity. You could trust him with your life.”

She added that the three years it has taken for the case to come before the court has drained both her body and soul.

“Our sentences were determined at 6pm on February 20th, 2017. We will live without John forever; that’s our lifelong sentence,” she added.

Garda Gerard McCauley’s evidence revealed that the road was governed by an 80kph speed limit but that they could not tell how fast the cars were traveling but the Audi car was traveling much faster than Mr McLaughlin’s Kia Rio.

Such was the impact that McColgan’s car traveled 65 metres while Mr McLaughlin’s car was thrown backwards and hit a tree.

Passers-by rushed to try and help Mr McLaughlin but despite a faint pulse and some small breaths, he passed away a short time later.

The court was told that McColgan has a number of previous convictions including intoxication, drunk while in charge of a vehicle, obstruction of a police officer, threatening and abusive behaviour and having no insurance.

Barrister for McColgan, Mr Damien Colgan said his client has expressed his remorse and has not come to Garda attention since the incident in 2017.

Judge John Aylmer said it was clear from the statements of the McLaughlin family and Mags Mulhall that the impact of Mr McLaughlin’s loss is harrowing.

“He was a pillar of the community who wil be sorely missed but mostly by his wife and three young children,” he said.

He placed the case bordering between the mid and higher range of such cases and said it initially merited a sentence of six and a half years adding that if the drink-driving reading or speed been shown to be higher then that sentence would have been higher.

However, because of the early guilty plea and the fact that he is deeply remorseful then he would reduce that sentence to four and a half years.

He added that he was further suspending the last year of that sentence on condition that McColgan be of good behaviour meaning he will serve three and a half years.

He also said he was disqualifying McColgan from driving for fifteen years which he said was “a significant additional but appropriate punishment.”