IN a poignant and powerful victim impact statement the sister of musician Damien O’Brien, who died after sustaining serious injuries in a two-punch assault, described the devastation of his killing that has torn their family apart.
Craig McGrath (25), from Rathfadden Park, Waterford city, was sentenced to five years in prison last Friday after pleading guilty to the manslaughter on July 13, 2018 of 27-year-old Damien, arising from an assault that occurred on July 7, 2018. McGrath had been on bail at the time in relation to another assault.
In front of a packed courtroom, Sandra Griffin said her brother was a happy, healthy and talented young man who “cherished his family, his friends and his music”.
“One of life’s givers who had a kind word and a smile for everyone in it, Damien was hardworking, had a great sense of humour and would be best described as a gentle soul who could never do enough for people. He was a devoted son, brother, uncle, nephew and friend to so, so many. He lit up the lives of everyone around him. He was a gifted musician who had his whole life ahead of him, she said.
“What tears us apart is remembering the vicious manner in which his life was torn from him, the sight of him clinging to his life in a hospital bed. The sound of him gasping for his last breath as his broken body desperately fought to stay with us,” she said. Sandra broke down in tears after she described the 28-year-old as a pillar of strength for the O’Brien family. Six months prior to his death Sandra’s 14-year-old daughter Cora died after suffering a cardiac arrest. “We will never forget Damien’s courage and determination that night as he performed CPR on her.” Unfortunately Cora lost her life that night and her family’s world was shattered into a “million pieces”. Kind-hearted Damien never left Sandra’s side and helped to support other family members.
“The last thing he said to me before he was taken from his family was ‘I will help you get through this year’,” she said. Damien was the light of the life of his mother Kathleen who was left with a hole in her heart that never can be filled.
Damien loved entertaining people. “There was no room in his heart for hatred or aggression,” Sandra said.
She outlined in tragic detail what unfolded after Damien had been transferred to Cork University Hospital with breaks to his nose, jaw and eye socket from the impact of the punches he received. He had numerous brain surgeries to relieve pressure on his brain. Sandra said they could not comprehend how the accused was left home on bail while her brother lay “battered and broken in a hospital bed with tubes and machines keeping him alive”.
After surgery they were told that Damien suffered a stroke and would have severe disabilities if he woke up. They prayed for a miracle but he remained in a critical condition. A final surgery was not successful and surrounded by his family Damien passed away. “Most people wake up from a nightmare, but we wake each day to a nightmare that there is no end from,” she said. She urged the court to impose a strict sentence.
After the sentencing, there were audible gasps of disbelief from the public gallery. Outside the courthouse, Minister of State John Halligan said he would favour the introduction of legislation to reflect the gravity of ‘one-punch’ assaults.