A HOSPITAL volunteer advised by doctors not to drive, blacked out at the wheel and ploughed into another car killing the driver.
On Friday (November 13) Chichester Crown Court was told he only got into his car because he missed his bus and didn’t want to let anyone down at the hospital unit.
James Lonergan, 66, of Royal Close Chichester, pleaded guilty to causing death by dangerous driving and was sentenced to four years and eight months in prison, to serve half in custody. He was also given a five year driving ban.
Lonergan blacked out while driving on the A29 Shripney Road on October 21 last year, colliding with a Reliant Robin driven by 67-year-old Graham Cox, from Hunston, who died from his injuries at the scene.
The court heard Lonergan had been experiencing blackouts for more than a year prior to the incident and was advised by doctors not to drive.
Judge Christopher Parker QC said Lonergan, who worked as a volunteer at Bognor Regis War Memorial Hospital and St Richard’s Hospital, had led a ‘blameless life’ and ‘contributed to society’.
“But in the summer of 2013 it became apparent you were likely to suffer from blackouts or losses of consciousness without warning, day or night,” said Judge Parker.
In August 2013, Lonergan hit another vehicle after he lost consciousness on the M25.
Judge Parker added: “That should have been more than ample warning you should not have been driving a car until your condition had been diagnosed and cured. On October 21 you felt dizzy in the morning but you nonetheless put yourself behind the wheel.
“On the A29 at Bognor Regis you lost consciousness as you approached the left hand bend and drove straight into the Reliant Robin driven by Graham Cox, who had been looking forward to his retirement with his wife.”
Mr Cox’s wife Pam said the pair had celebrated their wedding anniversary just days before the tragedy.
Prosecuting, Mr Ryan Richter said: “She has lost the true love of her life. She didn’t get the chance to say goodbye. This has ruined the later years of her life.”
Defending Lonergan, Mr Pierce Power said: “The irony is he got in the car that day because he was a volunteer at the hospital. He’d missed his bus and didn’t want to be late or let anybody down.
“He didn’t get out of bed that day to hurt or harm anyone, he got out of bed to help people at the hospital unit.”
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