Crash in which former nun died a ‘tragedy’

A judge has said a crash in which a former Derry nun died was a ‘tragedy that will forever haunt the lives of all those affected’.

Tuesday, 11th May 2021, 10:17 am

Judge Patricia Smyth made the comment as she sentenced 28-year-old John O’Hagan at Antrim Crown Court.

O’Hagan, from Maybrook Park, pleaded guilty to causing the death of Loreto Douglas by driving carelessly on the A6 Glenshane Road in Dungiven on November 23, 2016.

Ms Douglas was a former member of the Sisters of Mercy Order in Derry and a founding member of family support charity Lifestart Foundation, where she worked since 1986.

O’Hagan also admitted causing grievous bodily injury by careless driving to a man and a woman, who sustained ‘life changing’ injuries as a result of the crash.

The court heard that shortly after 9.10am on the date in question two vehicles were stationary on the inside Belfast bound lane of the A6, close to the entrance of the Ponderosa.

A third vehicle, driven by the defendant O’Hagan, collided with the rear of one of the cars which shunted the rear of the other.

The court heard that Ms Douglas and the male victim had been standing between the two vehicles when the collision occurred.

The scene following the crash was described as ‘carnage’.

Ms Douglas was taken to hospital but died as a result of her injuries.

Her brother wrote a letter to the court which outlined how much the family miss her.

He also said that he held no malice towards the defendant in this case.

The male victim sustained extensive injuries to both his lower legs, including multiple fractures and soft tissue damage.

Meanwhile, the female sustained a head injury which has left her with a cognitive impairment.

The court heard that neither of them have any memory of the collision.

O’Hagan, who the court was told has no previous convictions, later told police that he couldn’t really see as a result of the sun.

He said he had slowed down and was intending to stop, but didn’t see anyone in front of him until he had hit them.

O’Hagan’s passenger and other independent witnesses also gave evidence about the sun on the day in question.

The court heard that the scene was subject to a forensic examination to assess the impact of the sun.

This found that from when the defendant first experienced the blinding effects of the sun to impact would have been three to four seconds.

Passing sentence, Judge Smyth said the defendant is a working man with a young family, who has been diagnosed with post traumatic stress disorder since the crash.

She said that in light of all the circumstances of the case and ‘in particular the effect of the sun on the tragic events that occurred’ she was satisfied that any sentence should be suspended.

The judge suspended a five month sentence for two years and disqualified O’Hagan from driving for a year.