Clonmany man jailed for his role in car crash

A former champion boxer was left in a vegetative state after he was involved in a horrific road crash.

Gareth Holmes, 20, was the backseat passenger in a classic car which hit a tree on March 13th, 2008.

The car, a 1980 Escort RS 2000 was being driven by painter Kevin McLaughlin.

Gardai and medical personnel who arrived at the scene at Cleagh, Clonmany, Co Donegal revealed how there had been as strong smell of alcohol from McLaughlin.

McLaughlin, who pleaded guilty to dangerous driving causing serious harm, driving without insurance and refusing to give a specimen, said he remembered nothing about the crash when quizzed by Gardai.

Ms Eileen Harkin, a foster sister of the victim, said Gareth, from Magheramore, Clonmany, was 100% innocent of any involvement which had left his in such a state.

“He was not out drinking that night. He had been coaching (boxing).

“The Gareth we knew died that died. He cannot walk or talk or bath himself. He has been left without his dignity,” she said.

There were angry reactions from the Holmes and Harkin families when Defence Barrister Joseph McGettigan suggested Mr Holmes had been happy if McLaughlin had simply been banned from driving for three years.

Judge John O’Hagan said it was not easy to send a man to prison who had worked hard all his life and had never been in trouble.

“Despite televisions and books and whatever, prison is not a not place,” he said.

However he said he must take into account the fact that McLaughlin was 39 at the time of the accident, admitting to drinking and driving and not having any insurance.

He sentenced McLaughlin to 3 years in prison and suspended the last year on the charge of dangerous driving causing serious harm, and imposed a ten year driving ban on the main charge.

He also sentenced the accused to six months in prison, to run concurrently, for having no insurance and banned him from driving for 12 months, a total ban of 11 years.