menace | 

Drunken Irish driver jailed for least 15 years after crashing into car full of schoolgirls in US

'You are a lucky man that you are not here facing numerous counts of homicide by vehicle'
Shane Brolly

Shane Brolly

Neil Fetherstonhaugh

A drunk Northern Ireland man who crashed into a car full of schoolgirls in Philadelphia, leaving one of them with brain damage, has been sentenced to 15-30 years in prison.

Shane Brolly (25), a joiner from Dungiven, had been drinking for hours before he caused the smash that injured four Neshaminy High School girls in Northampton Township, Bucks County, on March 27, 2021.

Brolly, who had prior drink driving offenses in Northern Ireland stemming from a high-speed police chase, pleaded guilty to multiple charges and has been sentenced to serve out his time in state prison.

Brolly had borrowed his cousin's truck and was driving without a license when he crossed into opposing traffic to pass another vehicle.

Brolly moved from the northbound to the southbound lane in a no-passing zone and was travelling at about 70mph when he slammed into an oncoming Mazda SUV with four teenage girls inside.

The girls how had been celebrating the start of their spring break were trapped as the vehicle rolled several times before coming to a stop about 50 feet off the roadway.

The force of the impact sent Brolly's truck back into the northbound lane, where it struck the vehicle he originally had attempted to pass.

According to crash investigators, Brolly never hit his brakes and was still accelerating when the collision occurred.

Investigators determined he had been drinking heavily for several hours before the crash.

Brolly was almost three times over the legal limit after he had spent the day drinking while playing golf before visiting two pubs, and was so drunk later that a barman refused to continue serving him.

Brolly was also injured in the smash

Brolly was also injured in the smash

Despite pleas from friends not to drive home, and an offer from one to pay for a taxi, Brolly got behind the wheel of the pick-up. This was after he texted his cousin, who owned the vehicle, telling him he was too drunk to drive.

After the staff at Paddy Whack's Irish Sports Pub in Northeast Philly refused to serve Brolly anymore drinks, he ignored pleas not to drive home from friends and others at the bar.

The crash occurred around 10.10pm, approximately 20 minutes after Brolly and a passenger in his truck had left the bar.

Brolly, a native of Northern Ireland, was living in the United States illegally on an expired work visa at the time and had been staying in Philadelphia.

“You are a lucky man that you are not here facing numerous counts of homicide by vehicle," Common Pleas Judge Jeffrey L. Finley told Brolly at his sentencing on Thursday morning.

The four Neshaminy High girls, who were all 16 or 17 years of age at the time of the crash, were hospitalised for several weeks.

One of the victims suffered breaks to bones in her jaw, leg, knee, and wrist along with other injuries. For weeks, she was limited to eating liquefied food through a straw.

She and her friends told the court on Thursday about the effects the crash still has on their lives.

Another passenger said she recently had a fourth surgery to repair her broken leg, which derailed her hopes to play soccer in college or to attend a school away from home.

The girls had spent the day out shopping and were planning to have a sleepover before the crash. They were about five minutes from one of the girls' homes when Brolly's truck struck their SUV head-on.

Brolly's passenger suffered serious internal injuries and multiple abrasions from the seat belt. Brolly was hospitalised with unspecified injuries in the aftermath of the crash.

The aftermath of the smash

The aftermath of the smash

Neighbours in the area of the crash heard a loud noise and rushed outside, where they heard screams and cries for help coming from the Mazda.

One of them was able to remove the SUV's sunroof to help free three of the girls until emergency personnel arrived to get the fourth girl out of the vehicle.

During the investigation, authorities learned Brolly had been arrested for dangerous driving in Northern Ireland in June 2019, when he led authorities on a 16-mile chase at speeds up to 114 mph.

The chase ended when Brolly crashed and tried to flee on foot. He pleaded guilty that September and admitted he'd consumed six or seven pints of beer before driving.

After pleading guilty to dangerous driving and drunk driving, District Judge Peter King told him: “You are clearly a menace to road users”.

He had been due to be sentenced at Coleraine Magistrates’ Court for drunk driving in October 2019, but failed to show as he was on the other side of the Atlantic.

Brolly had fled to the US to avoid sentencing in the case and had a warrant out for his arrest in his home country while he was living in Philadelphia.

His vehicle operator's license from the United Kingdom was suspended and he did not have a valid driver's license in Pennsylvania.

Witnesses told police that Brolly and Quinn had purchased two 12-packs of beer in Montgomery County around 4pm and drank most of them while hitting golf balls at a Philadelphia driving range.

Five of the 24 beer cans remained unopened in the truck after the crash.

After golf, Brolly drove the two men to a bar in Philadelphia, where they ate lunch and each had at least one beer. Then they headed out to pick up another friend before going to Paddy Whack's.

During the drive there, Brolly sideswiped another vehicle and paid the driver $100 not to report the incident, prosecutors said.

After arriving at Paddy Whack's at around 7.20pm, Brolly drank another two beers, several shots and mixed drinks, investigators said. Surveillance footage from the bar showed Brolly stumbling and spilling drinks as he walked.

When Paddy Whack's staff cut Brolly off, he became agitated. People tried to calm him down and they asked him not to drive. One woman offered to get Brolly an Uber ride home, and a friend told Brolly he could spend the night at his home, authorities said. But he left anyway.

Judge Jeffrey Finley sentenced Brolly to three to six years for each of the five most serious charges, calling the driver a ”lucky man” that no one was killed in the accident.

He ordered the sentences be served consecutively, meaning Brolly must complete a minimum of three years on each charge.

In addition to the prison time, the judge ordered Brolly to pay restitution of more than $62,000 to the victims for unpaid medical expenses.

In the time since the crash, a GoFundMe campaign for the four Neshaminy High School students has raised more than $150,000 to support their ongoing treatments.

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