News

Brave hit-and-run victim comes face-to-face with scumbag driver

NewsBy Patrick O'Connell
John Swift: "I was livid when I saw him in the court… I was livid"
John Swift: "I was livid when I saw him in the court… I was livid"

A MOTORCYCLIST who had to have his leg amputated after being mown down by a road-banned drink driver has spoken about the rage he felt when he came face-to-face with the thug in court.

Drink-driver Charles McDonagh had 124 previous convictions and was banned from the road when he fled the scene after ploughing a battered €400 Mercedes into innocent John Swift.

This week, the vile thug, who was six times over the limit when he hit John, smirked at supporters in court as he was jailed for nine years for the hit-and-run that claimed motorcyclist John’s leg.

Cavan Circuit Court heard in the wake of ploughing through John’s motorcycle, McDonagh got out, examined his car, drove a short distance from the scene and abandoned the car before fleeing on foot.

When he was eventually chased down by gardaí, he never asked about the condition of his victim, instead telling officers: “Sure you didn’t get me in the car.”

Imposing a nine-year-sentence and banning McDonagh from ever driving again, Judge John O’Hagan described his appalling behaviour as “one of the worst cases of dangerous driving” he had ever encountered.

“It was like being hit by a bomb,” John said, recalling the moment McDonagh ploughed into him shortly before 5.30pm on April 6, 2015 of the Easter Bank Holiday weekend.

“Unbeknownst to me, the Gardaí were out looking for McDonagh because he had already been spotted driving dangerously. He just smashed me off the road and carried on about his way,” John told the Sunday World. 

“I didn’t see it happening at all because he came from behind me and it was like a bomb going off. I was launched down the road and he just carried on,” he added.

“It was chaos. I was sliding, looking at the traffic coming towards me and when I came to a stop, I tried to stand up because I could see the cars coming towards me.

“When I tried to stand up I fell back in a heap. My foot came over on top of me and I had to bat it away before it hit me in the face. I was thinking ‘that leg is broken’ and I knew my collarbone was gone as well,” said John.

Charles McDonagh

Gardaí who had been following McDonagh arrived on the scene straight away and immediately went to John’s aid.

“They told me not to look at my leg and then an ambulance came and put the tourniquet on – which they had to do a couple of times because my trousers were being caught up in the wound.

“I remember thinking then that this was a bit worse than I thought,” he added.

“A doctor who was passing and helping out was speaking to one of the ambulance men. They thought I was unconscious and I heard them saying: ‘That leg is gone.’”

Last week, after the loss of his leg, a year of surgeries and painful rehabilitation, John came face-to-face for the first time with McDonagh, when the 25-year-old appeared in Cavan Circuit Court for sentencing.

A report in The Anglo Celt broke down McDonagh’s previous 124 convictions.

They included five for failing to appear before court; 11 trespass; 23 public order; 11 assaults; one for assault causing harm, 42 for theft; and the remainder for perjury, escape from lawful custody and road traffic offences.

He had been disqualified from driving for five years, from July 2010, when causing the accident which cost Mr Swift his leg.

The vehicle was neither taxed nor insured, and McDonagh did not have a driving licence.

The person who sold the car to McDonagh two-weeks prior to the accident, which had no NCT since March 2014, said he did so for a sum of €400, but the defendant never paid him in full.

“I was livid when I saw him in the court… I was livid,” John said.

“You could just tell by him the type of guy he is and I knew his record previously. All I could think was, how he is out? How was he out of prison to do this to me.

“You get a bit of a rush of blood to the head and when I saw him I had half an idea to make a run for him. But it would’ve looked pathetic because a toddler would have been able to stop me. I would’ve looked stupid so I just didn’t bother.

“The arresting officer gave me a letter from McDonagh that he had obviously been told to write. It was: ‘I’m sorry for this, I’m sorry for that, I’ve had a difficult life, please forgive me, I’ve had a hard life,’” said John.

“If he had even pulled over then that would’ve been something. But his first words when he was caught said everything. He was sorry he was caught and that was it.’

Describing the impact on his life, John said he and his girlfriend had loved travelling and cycling round Ireland, but his life will never be the same again. He had to give up his job and go back to college and faces huge medical bills into the future associated with his need for a prosthetic leg.

Despite his brave decision to share his own story, John fears it will do little to change the behaviour of thugs like McDonagh.

“Lads are going around and getting tanked up,” he said. “A bank holiday weekend like this with the sun shining, a big slab of cans and straight in the car! “F**k what happens after that. Nothing I say or do will change that,” he warned.