Farmer praised for saving man's arm after collision

Almost lost limb after Donegal town collision

By Staff Reporter

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Farmer praised for saving man's arm

Judge O'Hagan

A farmer who freed a man who was trapped in a car which landed in his farmyard has been praised for saving the injured man’s arm.

Joe Morrow of The Haugh, Donegal town used his tractor to lift the jeep and helped the injured driver free his trapped arm which was pinned between the overturned vehicle and the concrete farmyard.

The accident happened in September 2011 when the jeep came off the road and slid down an embankment on it side into the farmyard.

Judge John O’Hagan praised the actions of the farmer at Donegal Circuit Court at the sentencing of the driver of the jeep who pleaded guilty to careless driving causing serious harm bodily harm and failing to keep a vehicle at the scene of an accident. The passenger, James Wilson, suffered serious injuries to his left arm and has not regained the full use of it

The judge congratulated Mr Morrow for his actions on the night. "He was a wonderful man on the night," he said.

"He had the cop on to get his tractor and use the forklift to lift the vehicle. He showed a lot of maturity and calmness. I have little doubt that his speed in reacting helped to save Mr Wilson's arm."

The court heard that Mr Morrow heard the impact and realised there was someone trapped inside the vehicle with his arm pinned between jeep and concrete.

Mr Morrow used the front loader on a tractor to upright the jeep so the trapped passenger could release his arm. McHugh helped Mr Wilson from the vehicle.

McHugh then got back into the driver's seat of the vehicle and left the scene.

Gardaí discovered the vehicle, which was extensively damaged, in the Drumrooske estate in Donegal town.

McHugh (29) of Ardeevan, Barnesmore was given 240 hours community service in lieu of 18 months in prison and disqualified from driving for five years.

He was given one year in prison for driving carelessly and 18 months for leaving the scene and was disqualified from driving for five years.

The concurrent sentences were substituted with 240 hours of community service.

Judge O'Hagan said the case was a serious matter and he said he could not accept that the driving was due to a momentary lapse.

Donegal town man left the scene of an accident in which the passenger in his vehicle almost lost an arm after the jeep they were travelling in overturned and landed in a farmyard.

Conor McHugh (29) of Ardeevan, Barnesmore was given 240 hours community service in lieu of 18 months in prison and disqualified from driving for five years.

He admitted careless driving causing serious harm bodily harm and failing to keep a vehicle at the scene of an accident on September 11th, 2014 at The Haugh, Donegal town.

James Wilson, who was the passenger in the vehicle, had his arm trapped under the jeep driven by McHugh after it left the road at a dangerous bend.

Garda Fiachara O'Hara told Donegal Circuit Criminal Court that he was on patrol at midnight when he got a report of a road collision.

The scene of the accident was a farmyard, about six feet below the level of the road on a bend, he said.

The jeep lost control on the bend, hit the wall and toppled into the yard, landing on its passenger side.

The Morrow family, who lived at the farm, were assisting an ambulance crew when gardaí arrived. Joe Morrow heard the impact and realised there was someone trapped inside the vehicle with his arm pinned between jeep and concrete. Mr Morrow used the front loader on a tractor to upright the jeep so Mr Wilson could release his arm. McHugh helped Mr Wilson from the vehicle.

The accused the got back into the driver's seat of the vehicle and left the scene.

Gardaí discovered the vehicle, which was extensively damaged, in the Drumrooske estate in Donegal town.

The two men, whose families live close to each other, had been at a party on the night.

The court heard that drink driving matters in relation to the case are before the district court.

The weather was dry and road conditions were good on the night.

Mr Wilson was not wearing a seatbelt. McHugh was insured and held a full driving licence.

Patricia McLaughlin (BL), counsel for the state, said Mr Wilson lost a lot of skin and muscle from his left arm, suffered a dislocated shoulder and two broken bones. He has received extensive surgery and will have more plastic surgery.

Mr Wilson, who was unemployed at the time and is now on disability allowance, has limited function of his arm and it is not known whether his arm will ever be the same.

Victim impact statement

In an victim impact statement read to the court, Mr Wilson said he had been getting a lift home from a party with the accused when the crash happened.

When he went to hospital in Letterkenny it was initially feared that he would lose his arm. He said he has lost count of how many operations he has had. He has had skin grafts to his arm from his thigh and has had a plate inserted in his wrist.

His said he has very little use of his left arm. His left elbow is locked and his left wrist hangs limp.

He wears long sleeve tops in good weather to cover the arm. Cooking, cycling and household tasks are all out of the question, he said. He lives with his sister, and he is very reliant on her for assistance.

McHugh had previous convictions for offences including driving without insurance, theft, production of an article in the course of a fight and assault causing harm, for which he received a custodial sentence.

The court heard that two vehicles had landed in the yard in previous years and a barrier has been erected at the location since.

Garda McHugh said there was no suggestion of speed but it was likely there was a misjudgment of the bend.

Defence counsel Damian Crawford (BL) said McHugh, who works as a digger operator and truck driver in England, is shocked by the injuries Mr Wilson received and is very remorseful.

The accused's father Pat said it has been very upsetting to know the injuries Mr Wilson suffered.

McHugh told the court that he and Mr Wilson were friends. He said he left the scene because he panicked. He said he got into the jeep to move it out of the way to let the ambulance through the gate of the farmyard and then he panicked.

Very sorry

"I am very sorry," he said. "I do be worrying about his arm. It is a hurt to me too," he said.

"It just happened so quick. I just misjudged the bend."

After he was asked why he misjudged the bend by Judge John O'Hagan, he accepted that he had been drinking at the party.

Mr Crawford said the leaving of the scene was a disgraceful form of conduct, but it was consistent with panic as there was no realistic chance of him evading detection.

He said there had been evidence that McHugh had attempted to correct his driving, and the accident was due to a momentary lapse.

"This is an accident that has happened to many other people," he said.

Judge John O'Hagan said the case was a serious matter and he could not ignore the aspect of drink in the case. He said he also could not accept that the driving was due to a momentary lapse in concentration.

The judge congratulated Mr Morrow for his actions on the night. "He was a wonderful man on the night," he said.

"He had the cop on to get his tractor and use the forklift to lift the vehicle. He showed a lot of maturity and calmness. I have little doubt that his speed in reacting helped to save Mr Wilson's arm."

The judge said he agreed with the defence that the seriousness of the injuries suffered by Mr Wilson should not be an aggravating factor in the case.

He said that as a professional driver, the loss of his licence would be a very severe penalty for McHugh.

He sentenced him to one year in prison for driving carelessly and to 18 months for leaving the scene and disqualified him from driving for five years.

The concurrent sentences were substituted with 240 hours of community service.