Crash motorist fled burning car in Cookstown and hid from police

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A motorist has been disqualified from driving for nine months after he crashed his car and fled the scene as it burst into flames.

Firefighters were called to tackle the blazing Volkswagen Golf on Lough Fea Road, which had been driven by Gavin Donnelly, 22, from Tullynagee Road, Moneymore.

Dungannon Magistrate’s Court on Wednesday heard that the single vehicle crash, which occurred in the early hours of November 5, also caused damage to a road sign and some fence posts.

Police conducted a search of the scene at the time, but could find no sign of the driver, the court was told.

They traced the car to Donnelly’s address but there was no sign of the defendant at the address.

His father told police that Donnelly did not wish to reveal his whereabouts.

On November 11, Donnelly admitted the offences of driving without due care and attention, and leaving the scene of an accident.

His defence solicitor told the court that Donnelly was well-regarded in his local community and had a character reference from a neighbour and his employer.

The defendant also had a clean driving record and had made an early guilty plea to the offences.

However, District Judge John Meehan interrupted the defence and presented the hypothetical possibility that a drunk driver who crashed his car might attempt to avoid police attention until it can no longer be proved that he was intoxicated.

The defence replied that Donnelly’s behaviour was ‘an aberration’ and he was ‘suitably chastened’.

Judge Meehan said Donnelly was in danger of becoming another reckless driving statistic.

“You were in an alarming accident, and decided to deter police from carrying out their investigation”, he told Donnelly, fining him £450 as well as taking away his license.