Mum left in wheelchair forgives NI driver after horror crash that left her paralysed and two friends dead

A young Northern Ireland mother who was left in a wheelchair after a crash that claimed the lives of two of her friends has said she holds no ill will against the driver.

Rachel Elliott suffered severe head and spinal injuries following the accident in Bundoran, Co Donegal, in 2018. She spent 12 days in intensive care.

Rachel (27), from the Irvinestown area of Co Fermanagh, had been one of five people thrown out the boot of a car after it crashed at speeds of up to 121kph at Single Street, Eastend Bundoran, just after 3am on August 19 2018.

But the mother-of-one said she has forgiven the driver, Joe Gilroy.

The 23-year-old, from Lisnaskea, has pleaded guilty to dangerous driving causing the deaths of Rachel’s friends – Shiva Devine, originally from Belleek, and Conall McAleer, from Boa Island. He will be sentenced by Judge John Aylmer at Donegal Circuit Court on April 20 after a tariff hearing this week.

Rachel said that she is now a better person as she looks at life differently from a wheelchair.

But she said she bears no ill towards Gilroy, who was driving friend Colin Brennan’s Peugeot 306 on the night of the horrific crash.

She said: “I just want Joe and his family to know that I hold no ill feeling to him or his family. I don’t blame him in any way for being in a wheelchair.

“Joe has to live with this for the rest of his life and that alone is a life sentence. I wish him all the best for the future along with the rest of the families involved because I cannot imagine what they are going through.”

In a heart-wrenching victim impact statement, Rachel said her life has changed forever but in many ways for the better.

She recalled the moment when doctors told her she would never walk again and how she has been forced to adapt.

She said: “To this day I will never forget the day the consultants came in and told me I will be in need of a wheelchair full-time. It has been difficult getting used to my new life in a wheelchair.

“I will be honest and thought I would never get through it but I have come a long way since I got out of hospital and became more independent.

“I thought I would never cope with this life that was given to me, however, I have learned to adjust, overcome and forgive. Due to life in a wheelchair, I feel that I am a better person and an even better mother.

“I deal better with situations now than I would have before resulting in me being in a better place in life. I do still have my daily struggles but at night I find the hardest. At night that is when I cannot switch off from my thoughts and feelings and the loneliness overcomes me.”

Rachel said she is concentrating on becoming a better person and living her life with her five-year-old son. She said she wished everyone’s pain can ease and singled out driver Joe Gilroy for the remorse he has shown since the crash.

She added: “I have accepted for the time being that this is my life and I have learned to be grateful for life, the life that I have now and that I am still here to watch my wee boy Ronnie grow up. I am learning to be a better mum and a better person.

“The love of my child is what has kept me going. My child is five and I don’t know what the years to come will bring for me and him as you don’t know what can happen in the future.

“All I know is that Joe is a good, warm-hearted person and this would be heart-breaking for him and his family. He has shown nothing but remorse to us all.”

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