By RYAN DUNN
ORIENT — Shane Courtney sits in prison with a hazy memory of nearly killing a stranger.
“I think I need every day of this five years to get better,” Courtney says of his sentence. “And I deserve every day of this five years.”
More than two years ago, Courtney, of Findlay, was moments from his sentencing in Hancock County Common Pleas Court for a drunken driving crash that severely injured James Noone.
When the judge asked if he had anything to say, Courtney asked to turn toward Lou Ann Noone, James’ wife.
No excuses made during the Sept. 6, 2011, hearing could correct his disastrous mistake. He spoke briefly through tears, promising to never forget what he had done.
“Something has to change, because I could have killed somebody,” he said.
Then it was her turn.
Lou Ann Noone calmly recalled three excruciating days after the crash, a time of “not knowing if my husband was going to be alive or dead.”
Shortly before 9 a.m. Jan. 22, 2011, Courtney, with a blood alcohol content of about 0.12, drove his dark blue Chevrolet pickup truck east on Trenton Avenue, according to police.
Courtney swerved left of the double yellow lines in the 200 block of West Trenton Avenue, near North Cory Street. His truck sideswiped one car before smashing head-on into James Noone’s Chrysler sedan.
The collision flipped Courtney’s truck onto its top and demolished the sedan. Both men were hurt and trapped in their vehicles.
Lou Ann Noone shared three minutes with her husband before paramedics whisked him away for treatment.
Three groups of surgeons worked to reconstruct James Noone’s broken body.
The prognosis soured with each update. Breathing was a struggle with one lung collapsed and the other partially so. Paralysis was a worry from his neck fractures, she said.
There was a good chance the anesthetic would kill him, his wife said.
He survived, but the couple left the hospital with growing medical bills and a drastically reduced income.
The decisions they once shared fell to her.
It was a miracle that James Noone, then 68, lived after Courtney slammed into him with a pickup truck, his wife said in court. She was inspired by his recovery and their children’s dedicated visits.
“We forgive you,” she told Courtney, “but we sure do wish, and are praying to God, that it never happens to another family.”
The judge ordered Courtney to serve five years in prison and pay $150,000 to his victims.
Courtney, now 39, is incarcerated at Pickaway Correctional Institution in Orient. He is inmate A613401, one man among the 2,150 or so detained at the prison.
The crash remains a blur for Courtney. He said he only recalls swallowing pills and alcohol, after hours of drinking.
“I don’t know if I was blacked out when I got in the car, or just from the accident,” Courtney said.
Memories of a Blanchard Valley Hospital room are much clearer. Several family members bearing grim looks stood around Courtney’s bed.
“The first thing out of my mouth was, ‘What happened?’” he said.
He heard a Life Flight medical helicopter take off, transporting James Noone to Toledo for intensive treatment.
Courtney left the hospital and began a brief jail term. His time free on bond was filled with regret and continued drinking, he said.
Alcohol addiction has challenged Courtney his entire adult life. It made an earlier prison stint unsuccessful, and frustrated those who cared about him, he said.
“On the outside, they really couldn’t support me, because I did what I wanted to do. I think they were just getting tired of the direction my life was taking,” he said.
Rehabilitation and school courses now fill Courtney’s prison schedule. The classes teach him to anticipate consequences, he said.
Courtney looks to the last day of his sentence, July 16, 2016, with hopes of righting whatever wrongs he still can.
The Noone family has not responded to his letter, he said. The husband and wife also declined a Courier reporter’s request for comment.
Paying restitution to them will be a priority for Courtney. He is training for a potential career in social work, because his favorite counselors can relate with their criminal records, he said.
“I don’t know what they set prison up for, rehabilitation, I guess, and punishment. It doesn’t always happen that way. This time it’s happening,” Courtney said.
Many will rightly blame him for the crash, Courtney said, and not changing would let down the Noone family. James Noone will likely face problems well after Courtney leaves prison, he said.
He asked those who even think about drinking and driving to first consider his case.
“It’s sickening guilt on an almost daily basis to know I caused what I caused,” he said.
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