Belfast Telegraph

Family grieves for young biker killed in west Belfast crash

By Sara Neill

A family is going through hell after their youngest son was killed in a crash, a relative has said.

John Ireland died after his dirt bike collided with a car shortly after 8.30pm on Saturday.

The 20-year-old died just yards from his west Belfast home on the Monagh Road in Turf Lodge, while his wheelchair bound father tried desperately to see his boy before he passed away.

John's parents, Patrick and Sally Ireland, are well-known in the estate, and relatives say the family has had a stream of visitors paying their respects.

Describing his brother as a kind-hearted boy, Thomas recalls the moment he identified his body. He said: "All I wanted to do was touch him, but I wasn't allowed. It's devastating, like someone just ripping your heart out, and it's only going to get harder."

John's oldest sister, Shauna, tearfully explained how she told her four-year-old daughter, Aaliayah, she would never see her uncle again.

"She fell to the ground. She said he's going to go into a hole and will never come back," she said.

But the family said they feel like they are waiting to see John walking down the street.

His cousin, Martha O'Connor, added: "When the coffin comes back, that's when it's going to hit everybody. When he's being brought home, but not the way he should've been. It'll be the last time he'll go into his house.

"There's no other hell like the loss of your child, because you're not meant to bury your kids."

The Turf Lodge community have shown their support to the Ireland family, and Black Mountain, which overlooks the estate, yesterday bore the message 'RIP John' in a space usually reserved for political slogans.

Martha said it showed just how the young man was loved in his community.

"There's not writing up there about any other young lad or girl who has died, it's always political. But this is a normal wee fella from Turf Lodge," she said.

Friends and family members also lit lanterns on Sunday evening at the field where John and his friends took their bikes.

Mr Ireland was the 57th person to die on Northern Ireland's roads so far this year.

Meanwhile two people have been injured in separate motorbike crashes.

A biker is seriously ill in hospital after a collision between Ballycastle and Ballintoy. It happened in the Whitepark Road/Glenstaughey Road area on Saturday at around 3.30pm, police said.

Inspector Peter Magowan said: "I would appeal for anyone that witnessed this accident or indeed anyone who may have seen either vehicle, a red/white BMW motorcycle travelling from Ballycastle to Ballintoy and a black Ford Focus which was also travelling from Ballycastle in the same direction, to please contact police at Coleraine on the non-emergency telephone number, 101."

Elsewhere, a policewoman came off her bike in a crash in south Belfast.

It happened at the junction of the Malone Road and Windsor Park on Sunday morning, delaying the start of the Belfast City half marathon.

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