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Family of Ryan Quinn (14), chased to his death on railway line, won't give up on justice

Mum's emotional plea seven years after teen died on Coleraine to Portrush line

By Laura Abernethy

Published 05/02/2016

Ryan Quinn’s mother Lisa Johnston (40) and daughters Zara Quinn (20) and Layla Ryanne Johnston (2) display a picture of Ryan who died after being struck by a train seven years ago
Ryan Quinn’s mother Lisa Johnston (40) and daughters Zara Quinn (20) and Layla Ryanne Johnston (2) display a picture of Ryan who died after being struck by a train seven years ago
Ryan died after being struck by a train seven years ago

The family of a Coleraine teenager who was chased on to a railway line and died after being struck by a train seven years ago have said they will never give up their battle for justice.

Ryan Quinn was just 14 when he was killed on the Coleraine to Portrush line after his hand became trapped in a cattle grid.

It is believed that he was chased onto the line near Dhu Varren by a group of teenagers after an argument and he had been seriously assaulted earlier that night.

In the moments before his death on January 30, 2009, Ryan made a desperate phone call to his dad, begging him to help him but the train was unable to stop and he died from his injuries.

Now, seven years on, Ryan's mum Lisa and sister Zara have said that they haven't been able to grieve properly because they still don't know exactly what happened to the teenager.

Ryan was at a birthday party at McLaughlin's bar just metres away from where he was killed. Police are still looking for people who were in the bar that night to come forward with information.

They are treating the case as a murder inquiry and they currently have two people on file for the case but have not found enough evidence to prosecute.

Lisa (40) said: "If somebody would just come forward. The difficult thing for us is just not knowing what happened. Every day I wake up and think will this be the day I find out? It is a nightmare. You're just trying to get on with your life but it just never leaves your head at all." Lisa is still haunted by memories of the night that Ryan died. She arrived at the scene shortly after his death as she had heard he had been assaulted.

She added: "I got the shock of my life when I arrived there. I thought I was bringing him to the hospital but in no way did I dream that.

"It happened so quickly but someone must know. Some people were scared to come forward but they are older now and I hope now that they think about it."

Ryan was loved by the whole community. His mum said that when he died, his friends were queued right down the street outside their house.

The family received around 800 sympathy cards but Lisa said she has never been able to read them. She added: "He had such an impact on so many people. He was so caring and very loving. Lots of older people came to Ryan's funeral because he had carried their bags or helped them out. He never went past without a smile or hello."

The family have tried to move on but said they still find every day difficult.

Lisa married her long term partner shortly after Ryan died but she said it was a day that was tinged with sadness.

Lisa said: "He was meant to be a big part of that. The wedding was so hard." His sister Zara (20) added: "We felt like he really was missing that day.

"I don't really remember much of it. We couldn't properly celebrate."

The family moved away from Coleraine four years ago because the town brought back so many memories of Ryan.

"It became too difficult. Everywhere we went just reminded us of Ryan. There were so many people who knew us and it was painful. I couldn't stay there any longer," Lisa said.

Zara was only 13 when the older brother that she looked up to was taken from her. She said it has been difficult to continue her life without him.

"We were so close. I've got older and reached milestones without him. It's been heartbreaking," she said. "I wasn't able to talk about it for a long time but I made a Facebook page last summer to try and get someone to come forward. It makes me feel better because I feel like I'm doing something."

They have found some happiness after Lisa gave birth to another daughter two years ago. Although she will never know her older brother, they want to make sure that Layla Ryanne will always remember him.

Zara said: "Layla was a wee miracle. She came at the right time. She has helped us heal and made us love again."

Lisa added: "I want her to grow up to remember him. She walks by his photos and says, 'That's my big brother'. We try to do everything we can to keep his memory alive."

Ryan's presence can be felt in their new home with photographs and mementos of his life everywhere and the family say that he is always mentioned at family events.

"The heartache is always there. You can't enjoy family things but he's never left out. Someone will always raise a glass for Ryan. We'll always feel he's here with us in some way," Lisa said.

Anyone who has information can contact police in Coleraine on 101 or contact Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.

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