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Malachi's death at NW200 evoked painful memories of Stuart's late son 'but road racing must go on'

Father of rider killed at NW200 in 2014 speaks out in support of the sport

By Claire McNeilly

Published 18/05/2016

Simon Andrews with his sister Claire
Simon Andrews with his sister Claire
Kevin Thomas with his son Malachi, who tragically died at the NW200 last weekend
With parents Dee and Stuart

The father of a tragic road racing star has told how the death of Malachi Mitchell-Thomas at the weekend brought back painful memories of his own loss.

But Stuart Andrews, whose only son Simon was killed at the North West 200 two years ago, also said he was against any attempts to ban the sport despite his own personal tragedy.

The father-of-two was at this year's event when 20-year-old rising star Malachi died on the track despite frantic efforts to save him - and he admitted that he had yet to visit the spot where his son was fatally injured in a horror crash at the 2014 races.

In an interview with the Belfast Telegraph, the 62-year-old Englishman said he understood the devastation and the heartache that Malachi's father Kevin Thomas was going through.

"You can hear the grief in Kevin's voice - he's devastated," said Mr Andrews.

"It's extremely sad and it's very upsetting. You just don't want to hear that somebody else has lost their life. It evokes the memory of what I went through when I lost Simon.

"When you lose your son you go into a very, very dark place. You have to deal with the loss whichever way you can. I can't remember much about 2014 at all. It's a complete blank. And 2015 was pretty murky too. Now, only after two years, I'm coming to terms with what happened."

On Sunday Mr Thomas made an emotional return to the scene of the 110mph crash that claimed Malachi's life on May 14 after he tragically lost control of his Supertwin motorbike.

The Lancashire man paid tribute those who had tried to save his son's life and offered him support in the aftermath, but he also spoke up for the continuation of road racing - a call supported by Simon's dad.

"I'm a great advocate of the sport and I don't think that it should be stopped," said Mr Andrews, a businessman.

"The initial reaction is going to be, 'Why do you need to do this if young men die'? But it's in their blood. That's what they do, and all of them know that anything could happen - and you can see that when you look into their eyes.

"Each one of them knows that it could be them next, but it's never talked about."

"I was talking to a couple of guys in the paddock after last Saturday's crash and I could see the steel from the race side but also the pain from the loss. They all care. They know exactly what they're doing. They're very intelligent men, they take the risks, fully aware of what they are doing. They are top athletes."

Simon (31), died on May 19, 2014, two days after a crash in the ill-fated Superstock race on the north coast - but time has helped Stuart try to come to terms with his pain.

He was at home with his 63-year-old wife Dee, from whom he has been separated for seven years, when they found out about the accident while they were listening to the radio.

"I heard there was a red flag," he recalled. "I listened for the riders coming back and Simon's name didn't come back -and I thought 'did Simon...?'

"He was airlifted to hospital and I remember making frantic phone calls, talking to people, trying to find out what was going on.

"It was a complete shock. Simon was a very talented rider. We never worried about him. He was always very relaxed with the North West, so we didn't foresee anything happening."

Mr Andrews, who lives in Cookley, said that his son's death was extremely tough on the entire family, including his 40-year-old daughter Claire - Simon's sister - and his granddaughter Gracie Jupp (10), who is Simon's niece.

"There are times when something will give you a curveball - maybe a piece of music - and you'll just find tears running down your cheek," he said.

"At the start, you think about them every minute of every day. You try to find out that there are colours in the world again. But now, after two years, I think about him every day, but I don't think about him every minute of every day."

The grandfather-of-one, who now lives with his partner Dawn (54), returned this year for a second time to the North West 200 where Simon, who was from Wickhamford, Worcestershire, made his debut in 2011 and was the fastest newcomer.

"I needed to go, but I've never been to where Simon was killed," he said. "I've driven past it but didn't stop.

"People warned me that it might be very painful, but the fans in Northern Ireland were so good to me in 2015 - it really did help.

"It made what happened to Simon a little less traumatic. You just want to be closer to where he was in his last moments. It's almost spiritual. By going over there and spending time with people, it's almost as though he's still about."

Stuart also said he would always remember his last words to Simon when he spoke to him the morning before the race that claimed his life. "He was in good form and I just told him to go and have fun, to enjoy it and have a good time," he added.

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