Belfast Telegraph

Monday 21 April 2014

Torment goes on for teen road victim's parents

15-year-old had alcohol in system

The parents of a Crossgar teenager who died after being struck by a car as he ran across a Co Down road have said they will never recover from his death.



Matthew John Terrence Dagens died from severe head injuries after he was hit by a red Mercedes while crossing the Ballydougan Road outside the Downpatrick Racecourse three days before Christmas last year.

The 15-year-old St Colmcille's High School student was on his way in a taxi to a disco with a group of friends when some of the boys requested a toilet break.

The inquest was told the taxi driver pulled over outside the Downpatrick Racecourse and allowed the boys to get out.

In a deposition read out in court, taxi driver John Irvine explained that a few of the boys urinated a bit further up the road. He said he noticed that one of the boys, Matthew, ran across the road.

"I shouted at him to get off the road. Some cars started coming from both directions and were flashing their headlights at him. Several cars had to slow down and were beeping at him."

The inquest heard that as Matthew crossed the first lane, a car coming from the Clough direction narrowly missed him.

It is believed this might have spooked him, forcing the teenager to dash across to the other side, but witnesses told the court that they did not think Matthew checked the other direction.

A car coming from the Downpatrick direction struck him and flung him into the nearby wall.

A post mortem examination revealed the 15-year-old died from head injuries sustained during the accident. It also found there was enough alcohol in his system to put him over the legal driving limit.

At the start of the inquest, Coroner John Leckey said the finding was significant enough to raise serious questions as to how the teenager was able to obtain that amount of alcohol.

He then queried the investigating officer during his evidence about why police did not question publicans after the pathologist report revealed that it was believed the 15-year-old had been out celebrating in a pub before the accident.

However, the police liaison officer for the case advised the coroner that he was present during the post mortem examination and did not tell the pathologist that he thought Matthew had been drinking in a pub.

Speaking after the inquest Matthew's parents, Terri Murmin and Paul Dagens, said they accepted their son had been drinking, but were positive he had not been at a pub before he got into the taxi with his friends.

"Matthew got home from work at around 7.15pm," his devastated mother Terri said.

"He had picked up a bit of work doing the Christmas turkeys and was in high spirits about going out. He had been pleading with me all week to let him go. It was his first time at a disco. It was nearly 8pm before he left the house and he was in the taxi by 8.45pm.

"He was a good kid. We could trust him, we never had any reason before not to trust him. Besides, all the pub owners would have known who he was. They would never have served him."

Mr Dagens said the past year had been very hard for both families, but they did not blame anyone for their son's death.

"It was a tragic accident," he said. "There will be always questions in my head about why it happened but at least now we know there was drink taken and that he was over the limit. But we blame no-one.

"I don't think it will ever be something that I will ever get over. We would just take each day at a time. Every day he is in my head. Every day I ask myself why it happen. It's just something I can't explain."

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