Man fled scene of motorbike crash in which his friend died

ColeraineCourt9 - Edited

A man fled the scene of a motorbike crash, in which his friend died, and spent the night in a forest, a court heard on Thursday.

Michael John Andrews (27), of Dunluskin Gardens in Carrickfergus, had been a banned driver when he and Gary Welsh (25) were riding separate motorbikes at Main Street in Ballycarry on June 1, 2017.

A prosecutor told Ballymena Magistrates Court there was contact between the two “off-road trail bikes” and Mr Welsh then collided with a parked car.

He was found unconscious following the 9.45pm collision, where an ambulance arrived at 9.59pm, and died.

It was established Andrews had been riding the other bike and that he left the scene of the accident and was not spoken to by police until 4.20pm the next day.

The defendant had an open gash to his forehead and had spent the night hiding in a forest.

The prosecutor said no charges were being brought against Andrews regarding the manner of his driving in connection with Mr Welsh’s death.

The defendant pleaded guilty to charges of driving while disqualified; being an uninsured driver and failing to remain at the scene of an injury accident.

During an interview the defendant told police he and the deceased had been out riding and that he was the lead bike when Mr Welsh come up his inside and their handlebars struck.

Andrews said after he realised Mr Welsh was “not moving” he left the scene and remained in a forest overnight.

The court heard it was not believed there were any eye-witnesses to the actual circumstances of the collision.

An expert’s report reckoned the bikes were travelling at around 40mph and it was established the deceased had consumed alcohol and had a blood/alcohol level of 215 milligrammes – the legal limit being 80 milligrammes in 100 millilitres of blood.

District Judge Nigel Broderick said it would not reflect well on the defendant if he had left his friend lying on the road without anybody assisting him.

A defence barrister said the defendant was badly impacted by what happened.

The lawyer said Andrews leaving the scene could perhaps be connected to having ADHD and being “presented with a horrendous scenario”.

Sentencing Andrews, Judge Broderick said he wished to extend his condolences to the family and friends of the deceased.

The judge said the circumstances of what caused the collision were not exactly clear even though the police carried out an extensive investigation including looking at CCTV to try to piece together the movements of the motorbikes.

He said there was a lack of any independent witness evidence regarding speed and manoeuvres.

The judge said there was no prosecution in terms of the manner of Andrews’ driving but nonetheless he had “fled from the scene” and did not make himself amenable to police for some consider time.

Judge Broderick said he considered a medical report on the defendant and said it was clear Andrews had been experiencing mental health difficulties which had “deteriorated” since the tragedy.

The judge said Andrews had 49 previous convictions including 25 for road traffic offences and his initial reaction was to jail him.

However, he said he took into account the contents of medical and Probation reports which showed it was clear the defendant had “reflected on the tragic circumstances of the death of his friend” who he had been pals with since school.

The judge said that although Andrews has struggled with alcohol and drugs there was no evidence he was under the influence at the time of the collision but “a cloud must hang over him” as he fled the scene.

Judge Broderick banned the defendant from driving for six years and ordered him to do 100 hours of unpaid work.

He also put him on Probation for a year with conditions to attend any drug/alcohol counselling as directed and to do the ‘Thinking Skills’ programme.

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