A Belfast man consumed 13 drinks and a quantity of drugs before getting behind the wheel of his van, mounting a footpath and striking and killing a talented young student from Tyrone, a court heard on Friday.
Enda Dolan from Killyclogher was walking back to his accommodation along the Malone Road in the early hours of October 15, 2014 when he was hit by a van driven by David Lee Stewart (31).
Stewart - who had consumed drink and drugs prior the fatal collision - drove with 18-year old Enda on his roof for around 800 yards before stopping the vehicle.
Belfast Crown Court heard that Stewart’s passenger William Ross Casement (21), who he had been drinking with in the hours leading up to the collision, got out of the van.
Witnesses saw him standing close to Enda’s prone body which by this stage was lying on the road. He then got back into the passenger seat - and it is the Crown’s case that Casement “must have been aware that at least very serious injuury was caused.”
Despite hitting Enda and carrying him on the roof of his van, Stewart proceeded to drive the vehicle from the scene with Casement in the passenger seat before crashing into a lamppost further along the Malone Road.
Both Stewart, a father of three from Grays Park Avenue in Belfast and Casement, from Belvoir Drive in the city, admitted a series of charges linked to the collision.
Crown prosecutor Robin Steer said CCTV footage from Laverty’s Bar indicated both men were drinking in the pub on the evening of Tuesday October 14 where they watched a Northern Ireland match.
Whilst in the bar, Stewart consumed a total of 13 drinks which included six pints of beer and four Jagerbombs. At 1.15am on Wednesday 15th, both men were seen to “stagger on the road” before getting into Stewart’s van.
A short time later, the vehicle was parked at Donegal Square East and the pair went to Thompson’s Garage nightclub. They left at 2.20am - and less then ten minutes later, Enda Dolan was dead.
Witnesses prior to the fatal collision saw the van being driven dangerously, including undertaking a taxi, speeding through a red light.
Enda, a first year architecture student at Queen’s University, was walking along the Malone Road close to the entrance to Sans Souci Park when he was struck by Stewart’s van which struck a kerb and mounted the footpath.
Enda was carried on the roof of the vehicle before it came to a stop. Passers by tried to offer assistance to the fatally injured student, who was now lying on the road. One witness described seeing the van taking off at speed and being driven aggressively from the scene.
Turning to Enda, Mr Steer said it was clear that the former prefect at Christian Brothers Grammar School was “talented” both academically and in sporting terms. He told Judge Gordon Kerr QC that Enda played GAA and was also a member of Omagh United football team.
The court also heard the first year student was involved in cross country running, played the guitar and was “generous with his time with his family and the wider community in Omagh.”
Concluding the Crown case, Mr Steer said that at the time of the crash Stewart was “highly intoxicated” and had “made two decisions to drive in that condition.” He also said Stewart failed to stop following the fatal impact.
Casement, the Crown say, must have known the seriousness of the collision, and must have know Enda was, at the least, very seriously injured as he stood close to him. He then got back into the van and encouraged Stewart to leave the scene.
Arthur Harvey QC, representing Stewart, said the father of three was devastated by the consequences of his actions.
The barrister revealed that during interview, Stewart said that he was aware he had ruined the lives of Enda’s family. He told police: “I am deeply sorry for it, deeply deeply sorry. If I could turn back the clock I would. I would give up my own life for that wee lad.”
Mr Harvey also acknowledged that when he died, Enda was a “young man laying the foundations of his life” but that this will never be fulfilled because of Stewart’s actions.
Barrister Sean Doran, representing Casement, said the electrical engineer was only 20 at the time of the incident.
Accepting that Casement did return to the van after the collision, Mr Doran said Casement had “reflected on a daily basis” the incident.
Mr Doran said that Casement “deeply regrets becoming involved in the course of events that led to the death of Mr Dolan”, adding he had expressed genuine remorse and shame.
Both men were remanded in custody ahead of sentencing, which is due to take place next Wednesday.