A young mother who was left in a wheelchair after a crash in Donegal that claimed the lives of two of her friends has said she holds no ill will against the driver.
Rachel Elliott suffered severe head and spinal injuries following the crash in Bundoran on August 19th, 2018.
She spent 12 days in intensive care after she was transferred from Sligo University Hospital to Dublin’s Beaumont Hospital as she fought for her life.
She was one of five people thrown out the boot of a car after it crashed at speeds of up to 121kph at Single Street, Eastend Bundoran just after 3am.
Now amazingly the mother-of-one has found it in her heart to forgive the driver Joe Gilroy for any blame.
The 23 year-year-old has pleaded guilty to dangerous driving causing the deaths of Rachel’s friends Shiva Devine and Conall McAleer.
He will be sentenced by Judge John Aylmer at Donegal Circuit Court on April 20th next after sentencing evidence was heard earlier this week.
Rachel, from Co Fermanagh, even said that she is now a better person as she looks at life differently from a wheelchair.
But she said she bears no ill will towards Gilroy who was driving friend Colin Brennan’s Peugeot 306 on the night of the horrific crash.
She said “I just want Joe and his family to know that I hold no ill feeling to him or his family. I don’t blame him in any way for being in a wheelchair.
“Joe has to live with this for the rest of his life and that alone is a life sentence. I wish him all the best for the future along with the rest of the families involved because I cannot imagine what they are going through.”
In a heart-wrenching victim impact statement, Rachel said her life has changed forever but in many ways for the better.
She recalled the moment when doctors told her she would never walk again and how she has been forced to adapt.
She said “To this day I will never forget the day the consultants came in and told me I will be in need of a wheelchair full-time. It has been difficult getting used to my new life in a wheelchair.
“I will be honest and thought I would never get through it but I have come a long way since I got out of hospital and became more independent.
“I was always a troubled girl. Before the crash, I had made my fair share of mistakes and bad choices so the accident really changed my life forever.
“I thought I would never cope with this life that was given to me however I have learned to adjust, overcome and forgive. Due to life in a wheelchair, I feel that I am a better person and an even better mother.
“I deal better with situations now than I would have before resulting in me being in a better place in life. I do still have my daily struggles but at night I find the hardest. At night that is when I cannot switch off from my thoughts and feelings and the loneliness overcomes me.”
Looking to the future, Rachel said she is concentrating on becoming a better person and living her life with her five-year-old son.
She adds that she wishes everyone’s pain can ease and singles out driver Joe Gilroy for the remorse he has shown since the crash.
She said “I have accepted for the time being that this is my life and I have learned to be grateful for life, the life that I have now and that I am still here to watch my wee boy Ronnie grow up. I am learning to be a better mum and a better person.
“The love of my child is what has kept me going. My child is five and I don’t know what the years to come will bring for me and him as you don’t know what can happen in the future.
“All I know is that Joe is a good, warm-hearted person and this would be heart-breaking for him and his family. He has shown nothing but remorse to us all.
“I just hope in time that everyone’s pain can ease in time and I will still have Joe as a friend but I know that it is truly nobody’s fault.
“The last three years have been devastating for everyone involved. I don’t hold any ill feelings to anybody involved in this completely heart-breaking tragedy.”