23 November 2023

'Horror movie' car crash left driver's workmate with life-changing injuries

| Albert McKnight
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braydon russell o'leary

Cowra man Braydon Russell O’Leary (right) approaches court with his solicitor Michael Kukulies-Smith (left) to learn his fate at his sentencing. Photo: Albert McKnight.

A drunk driver who caused a car crash that left his mate and colleague with such serious injuries it looked like he had been in a “horror movie” has avoided being sent to jail.

Braydon Russell O’Leary, from Cowra in NSW, had been drinking all day on 11 November 2022 and only managed to drive 125 metres down the road before he lost control and crashed their car into a tree on Canberra Avenue, Fyshwick.

His friend was pulled from the car in a serious condition and taken to hospital with injuries including several broken or fractured bones in his spine, two broken legs, multiple broken bones in his hands and cuts to his head.

He also had an acquired brain injury, but testing was needed to assess its severity, the ACT Magistrates Court heard on Wednesday (22 November). He cannot return to work as a rigger.

“He still had parts of the tree he had hit coming out of his wounds,” his sister said of when she first saw him in hospital.

“It was like something from a horror movie and I truly don’t know how first responders can handle seeing this day in and day out.

“He is beyond lucky to be alive.”

She said while O’Leary was her brother’s workmate, he only visited him in hospital once and hadn’t checked in since.

“No visits, no offer of any emotional or physical support, as friends should,” the sister said.

She claimed O’Leary had not shown any remorse to them, which was what had been the biggest impact on her brother’s mental health. He was nowhere near the end of his recovery, she said.

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The victim had been driving the car first that evening before O’Leary jumped into the driver’s seat when they stopped at a service station.

O’Leary was injured in the crash as well, although nowhere near as much as his victim, and testing found he was four times over the blood-alcohol limit as he delivered a reading of 0.219.

braydon russell o'leary

Braydon Russell O’Leary, 32, pleaded guilty to causing the devastating crash. Photo: Albert McKnight.

Michael Kukulies-Smith of Kamy Saeedi Law, appearing for O’Leary, said the community had a strong interest in his client’s rehabilitation.

He said it was clear the 32-year-old’s alcohol misuse was his prime criminogenic risk factor, but he had taken significant steps in relation to addressing those issues. He stopped drinking alcohol after the accident.

Chief Magistrate Lorraine Walker said the harm O’Leary caused was “undoubtedly great”.

But she said there was no evidence he had been speeding or driving erratically and it was not entirely clear why the accident occurred other than because he had been highly intoxicated.

She said he already had two convictions for drink driving from 2011 and 2020, which had failed to deter him from driving with a high level of alcohol in his system.

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The chief magistrate also said while the victim and his family were upset by the perception that O’Leary had shown no sympathy or remorse, this was at odds with O’Leary’s own perception, as he had expressed remorse by pleading guilty and writing a letter of apology.

“There are no excuses for my behaviour,” he wrote.

O’Leary pleaded guilty to a charge of culpable driving causing grievous bodily harm.

He was convicted and sentenced to two years’ jail, to be served via an intensive corrections order in the community.

Also, he was given 240 hours of community service, must abstain from alcohol during the order and was disqualified from driving for 12 months.

Original Article published by Albert McKnight on Riotact.

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