Northern Ireland

Car struck film crew 'like bowling ball'

A car crashed into a fence Image copyright Press Eye
Image caption Some people suffered life-changing injuries in the crash near Boucher Road in south Belfast

A car driven too quickly by a Belfast man mounted a kerb and knocked down five members of a film crew "like a bowling ball", a court has heard.

A documentary was being shot in the city in November 2015 when Hugh McGrattan lost control of the vehicle.

The collision caused life-changing injuries to some of those who were hit.

Twenty-five-year-old McGrattan, from Whiterock Drive, has admitted five counts of causing grievous bodily injury by dangerous driving.

The crash happened on Apollo Road, just off Boucher Road in the south of the city, where the speed limit is 30mph.

'Stuck under car'

Belfast Crown Court was told on Thursday that CCTV footage showed McGrattan driving at a "grossly excessive" speed of between 52mph and 69mph in the moments before the crash.

His car struck a group of up to 15 people on a footpath, who were filming a programme for Irish national broadcaster RTÉ.

Image caption People were trapped beneath the car and fencing it had brought down, the court was told

One woman sustained a spinal cord injury, suffered paralysis from the chest down and now requires a wheelchair.

McGrattan admitted at the scene that he had been speeding and told a police officer that he thought he was going to "tip over".

A prosecutor told the court that some of those who were injured were stuck under McGrattan's car and the fencing it had brought down.

'People swept away'

Witnesses described seeing his car fail to negotiate a bend due to its excessive speed.

One woman said she saw McGrattan drive straight at the pedestrians and said the car was "like a bowling ball" when it struck the group.

Another woman said the car was "like a snow plough with people being swept away".

The prosecutor told the judge that some of the injures suffered by the victims were so severe that they still required medical treatment.

Image copyright Press Eye
Image caption McGrattan told police at the crash scene that he had been speeding, the court heard

A defence barrister said McGrattan had not driven since the crash, had been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, and suffers nightmares, after which he wakes up believing he has killed someone.

McGrattan deeply regrets the incident and "struggles with the enormity of it", he said.

'Gave roadside confession'

But the barrister added that McGrattan was not showing off with his driving and instead had made a "very significant misjudgement".

He also said McGrattan remained at the scene and offered assistance to the people he had injured, and gave a roadside confession to police.

Forensic evidence, the barrister said, suggested that McGrattan's speed when he hit the kerb was about 25mph.

The judge said she wanted time to reflect on the case and would pass sentence next week.

McGrattan was released on continuing bail.