'Babbling' drunk took wheel of bus stolen to pick him up from pub
A judge has described as "bizarre" an incident in which a drunken man stole a bus after a night in the pub and drove it on motorways around Shannon town before crashing it into a wall.
Adam O'Brien's solicitor, Daragh Hassett, told Ennis District Court that he took part in a "drunken prank that went horribly wrong. In fact, it was more serious than that".
O'Brien (20), of Ravendale, Pass Road, Meelick, crashed the 16-seater bus owned by PK Travel into a wall, causing €5,020 of damage.
He drove it around Shannon for an hour and was wandering from lane to lane on the M18 heading into Limerick when he was apprehended by gardai at Bunratty shortly after 3am on February 10.
Mr Hassett said O'Brien had been out with a friend and was waiting for a taxi to take him home from the Old Lodge pub at Ballycasey in the early hours.
"There is a bit of Hollywood in this," the solicitor told the court.
"Mr O'Brien is waiting for the taxi but what pulls up is his drinking buddy driving a bus who had taken it with the keys in it from the nearby car park. The doors open and Mr O'Brien gets on.
"They get on to the road and his friend says 'I'm a bit drunk, will you drive?' and Mr O'Brien, who had lots to drink, decides to take the wheel of the bus and drive around Shannon."
Mr Hassett said his client's decision to take the wheel "is something he will regret for the rest of his life".
He added: "The bus collides with a wall. The guards come and the game is up."
Mr Hassett said: "In the movies, two people take a bus and they are able to sleep it off.
"They go to court and they get off and the film ends well. This doesn't end well here."
O'Brien had been disqualified from driving just weeks before the incident.
Garda Colm Moriarty told the court that he came across the bus driving in an erratic manner across two lanes of the motorway heading toward Limerick.
Mr Hassett said that when gardai stopped the bus, they found O'Brien to be "babbling".
Gda Moriarty said O'Brien was extremely intoxicated and told Judge Patrick Durcan that "it was very lucky that nothing serious happened".
Mr Hassett said his client had almost half of the compensation in court, adding: "Every penny he has is in the envelope."
Judge Patrick Durcan said O'Brien should have his 50pc of the overall compensation in court for June 6.
Hinting at a jail term, the judge said monies paid up on that date "will reduce the sentence that I have in mind and your client might be advised to bring a little bag on that day".
O'Brien's co-accused has fled the jurisdiction but Mr Hassett said his client had stood his ground to face the charges.
O'Brien pleaded guilty to drink-driving, criminal damage and taking the bus without the consent of the owner.
He also admitted driving without insurance and a licence.
Mr Hassett described him as a pleasant young man who lost his father to cancer at 47.
He said there were testimonials from O'Brien's school principal and parish priest.
However, Judge Durcan said he was getting tired of letters from parish priests as it was an abuse for them to be asked to submit testimonials.
The letter from the school principal described O'Brien as "a thoughtful, pleasant young man, trustworthy, reliable and demonstrates a caring nature at all times".
Reading out the letter, Judge Durcan said: "The letter says that he 'has shown a keen interest in drama in his early years' - well, that is obviously something that he didn't lose."
O'Brien was remanded on bail to reappear before the court on June 6.