tragic event | 

Suspended sentence for man who caused three car collision which killed former nun

John O’Hagan (28) also admitted two further charges of causing grievous bodily injury by careless driving

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Paul Higgins

A Derry man who caused a three-car crash when the sun was in his eyes, killing a former nun and leaving two people with significant injuries was handed a suspended jail sentence today.

Imposing a five month sentence but suspending it for two years, Antrim Crown Court Judge Patricia Smyth told John O’Hagan (28) that having to wait four and half years for the case to be dealt with was 'unjustified' for the victims, their families and the defendant himself.

Judge Smyth added that given the circumstances if the case, “in particular the effect of the sun on the tragic events that occurred,” she was satisfied that any sentence should be suspended.

At an earlier hearing O'Hagan, from Maybrook Park, pleaded guilty to causing the death of Loreto Douglas by driving carelessly on the A6 Glenshane Road in Dungiven, Co Derry, on November 23, 2016.

The 28-year-old also admitted two further charges of causing grievous bodily injury by careless driving to Eoin Cunning and Emma Doherty on the same date.

The court heard that that shortly after 9:10am that morning, two vehicles were stationary on the inside lane close to the Ponderosa Bar with Ms Douglas and Mr Cunning standing between the parked cars when O’Hagan’s vehicle ploughed into the rear vehicle.

Witnesses at the scene described it as “carnage” and although Ms Douglas was airlifted to hospital, she tragically died as a result of her injuries.

Mr Cunning, who attended court for today’s hearing, sustained extensive injuries to both his lower legs, including multiple fractures and soft tissue damage which were described as “life changing injuries” while Ms Doherty, who was the former nun’s passenger, sustained a head injury which has left her with a cognitive impairment.

Neither victim can remember the fatal collision but arrested and interviewed, O’Hagan told police he was having difficulties being able to see because the sun was in his eyes so he had slowed down and was intending to stop when the collision happened.

His claims about the position of the sun was corroborated by both his passenger and other witnesses spoken to by police and also by a forensic engineer who examined the scene and opined that the time from first being dazzled to the point of impact would have been “three to four seconds.”

Judge Smyth told Mr Cunning cases involving death and injury in the roads are “grievous - there is no answer to them and no way of restoring your previous life to you.”

Ms Douglas, a former nun with the Sisters of Mercy Order in Derry, was 64-years-old at the time of her death and the court heard that her brother, both of whom were founding members of family support charity Lifestart Foundation, had written outlining that he held “no malice” towards O’Hagan although the family miss her “deeply.”

In addition to the suspended jail sentence, Judge Smyth also banned O’Hagan from driving for a year.

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