Momentary lapse led to pensioner’s death


A Lisburn pensioner told a court that he could not remember causing a crash that resulted the death of a county Monaghan grandfather and grievous bodily injury to the pensioner’s wife, near Strabane county Tyrone last year.

James Maurice Henderson, (73) of Limehill Road, Lisburn admitted causing the death of 65 year-old retired county Monaghan businessman Alexander McEntee form Castleblayney, in a three car crash on the A 5 Mulvin Road, between Newtownstewart and Victoria Bridge on January 3 last year.

Mr McEntee died within minutes after the defendant’s Range Rover collided with his Jaguar on the wrong side of the road, due to a “momentary inattention”, Dungannon Crown Court was told.

Another vehicle also was in collision with the Jaguar.

The defendant also admitted causing grievous bodily injury to his wife Hazel Henderson.

James Maurice Henderson, who has no previous convictions, walked free from last week’s Crown Court, after Judge Melody McReynolds gave the defendant two concurrent community service terms of 160 hours on each charge and a concurrent driving ban of five years on each charge.

In a statement read out in court the dead man’s widow said her “world had changed forever”.

The widow added that her late husband was a “65 year-old much loved husband”.

He was a very special man who was diabetic and had been diagnosed with cancer but was a vibrant man, she added. His wife depended on him not only emotionally but for driving her as well.

She had hoped to grow old together with her husband.

Prosecution Counsel Simon Reid told the court earlier the accident happened when the defendant’s Range Rover failed to complete a left hand bend.

The Range Rover collided with the dead man’s Jaguar after the defendant lost control of his vehicle “for a few seconds”.

Mr Reid said this was a “lower culpability case”.

A doctor was on the scene quickly but Mr McEntee died within minutes.

When first told of the accident the defendant broke down saying;

“Oh my God,……. that is wild. I can’t take that in”.

He told police officers he could not remember what happened when asked if he fell asleep at the wheel.

The court heard the defendant was travelling at 58 mph and the victim at 54mph per hour at the point of impact.

It appeared that he had lost control for a few seconds, the court heard.

His wife Hazel Henderson suffered severe injuries to her wrist and lower body.

Defence Counsel Gerald Simpson said his client had shown remorse from an early stage for the accident.

He said an eye- witness had described his client’s driving as normal in the lead up to the accident.

There was no evidence of speed, erratic driving, drink and no suggestion of prescription drugs or medication in any way dulling his senses.

There was no evidence of a relevant medical history or of the driver drifting off to sleep.

There were no aggravating factors, the court heard.

His client had the “deepest regret” for the death of Mr McEntee and he accepted full responsibility for the death.

This incident would live with the defendant for the rest of his life, he had no previous record and posed no threat to anyone.

In sentencing the defendant Judge Melody McReynolds said the facts had been agreed from both sides in this case.

She said she was not going to repeat those facts, as it was already painful enough for the McEntee family.

The judge said it was of some comfort to the McEntees that Dr Love was at the scene to give some comfort to the deceased during the very short time it took for his life to slip away.

Judge McReynolds noted the early plea, the remorse, the favourable Probation Report, Mr Henderson’s previous good record, his role as a carer for his injured wife and his physical fitness to carry out a community service order before handing down her sentence.

She offered her deepest condolences to the McEntee family.

She also commended them for the great dignity they showed in court.