A family in Co Londonderry has been left broken-hearted after a brother and sister died in a horrific car crash as they came home from a GCSE exam.
The siblings, named locally as Darren McNicholl (16) and his 20-year-old sister Natasha, died when their car was in a head-on collision with another vehicle about a mile from their home in Loup near Moneymore at around 1.30pm yesterday.
They were travelling home from St Pius X College in Magherafelt where Darren had been sitting a GCSE in geography, one of his last before the summer holidays.
It is believed a neighbour of the McNicholl family from the close-knit community of the Loup was travelling in the other car.
Natasha was in her second year studying mathematics at St Mary’s College in Belfast.
A man in the area, who did not wish to be named, said she was “a beautiful young girl”.
“She really had everything to live her,” he said.
Darren and Natasha were two of five children in their family. Darren was the only boy.
St Pius X College confirmed one of their pupils had been involved in a fatal accident.
Principal Mary White said the school was trying to come to terms with the tragedy.
In a statement, the school said: “The staff and students of St Pius X College deeply regret the sudden death of one of our students.
“Our thoughts, prayers and the sympathy of the entire college community are extended to the family at this very difficult time.
“The students in St Pius X College are being supported by the pastoral care team of the college assisted by the North Eastern Education Library Board (NEELB) critical incident response team.”
Darren was a keen Gaelic football player and a corner-back for St Patrick’s GFC under-16s.
A spokesman for the club said: “On numerous occasions it was said that Darren was one of the most improved players and one of the most consistent performers.
“The club will be offering its support to the family in any way we can.”
The McNicholl family is well known in Loup, where the children’s father Michael ran a caravan company.
SDLP councillor Mary Baker lives next to the family, and had known the deceased since they were children.
She said: “This is just a horrific accident and I'm so sad that two young lives have been lost on the roads yet again.
“They were so full of life, just like everyone at that age and full of personality. It's a terribly sad loss, just the worst kind possible. It's hard to express in words just how awful this is.”
Moneymore priest Fr Harry Coyle expressed his deep sympathy for the family.
“They are a lovely family,” he said.
Yesterday afternoon a steady stream of mourners called to the McNicholl home to offer their support to the heartbroken family.
Groups of young people huddled together for support at the bottom of the driveway leading to the family home.
The roadside by the family’s home was packed with cars.
One family friend said the children’s parents, Michael and Colette, were too distressed to speak “They are very upset,” the friend said.
People in the wider community of Loup said they were “stunned”.
One woman who did not want to be named said it was “just terrible” that the community had suddenly lost two of its young people. Messages of support were being placed on the Bebo page of Aisling, the youngest of the family.
“We're all thinking about you Aisling. Keep your head up,” read one message.
Meanwhile, in Co Antrim a man suffered serious injuries when the quad bike he was riding was in collision with a car outside Ballymena. He was taken to hospital suffering from head injuries, said a police spokesman.
The crash happened on the Cushendall Road and involved the quad and a Vauxhall Astra just after noon yesterday and police appealed for any witnesses to contact them — especially the driver of a grey Ford Mondeo which been travelling towards Ballymena and which stopped briefly at the scene.