Belfast Telegraph

Mark left for school like any other day, then tragedy struck yards from home

By Joanne Sweeney

Before tragedy struck, Mark Colgan's journey to St Colman's College had begun much like every other school day over the last three years.

The 14-year-old just had to cross over the road from his rural home in the townland of Ballyvarley, near Banbridge, Co Down, to catch a bus that would take him to Scarva.

From there he would catch a bus to St Colman's, Newry, where he was a Year 10 student and was said to have been a bright boy.

The bus usually picked Mark up from directly opposite the driveway to his impressive family home, which has a sweeping driveway and is surrounded by an attractive wall of ironwork and stone.

However, that trip was tragically cut short at around 8am when he was involved in a collision with a van as he waited at a bus stop just a few short yards from his own front door.

Despite being rushed to Craigavon Area Hospital, the teenager died later from the serious injuries he sustained.

The 30-year-old driver of the van was arrested and interviewed by the PSNI, but was later unconditionally released.

While police have not released any further information about how the accident happened, it was known to be raining heavily at the time of the collision on the busy two-lane rural road that winds its way to Scarva.

It is not yet known if his parents, Mervyn and Felicity, were at home at the time, news of the terrible tragedy spread quickly throughout the close-knit community

Such is the respect that the Colgan family is held in, many local people waited until evening to let the tragedy to sink in before approaching them to pay their condolences.

Mark was the youngest son of Mervyn and Felicity, who have two older children in their early 20s, Aideen and Paul.

The Colgans are a well-known and highly respected family in the Banbridge area and are deeply involved in the Aghaderg Gaelic Football Club and Ballyvarley Hurling Club. The GAA pitch sits alongside the family's home.

Just like his father and older brother Paul, Mark was beginning to make his mark as an up-and-coming young Gaelic footballer.

He was named under-14 player of the year last season, and although he also acquitted himself well as a hurler, he was looking forward to the upcoming football season when he would play for the under-16s.

Club chairman Kieran Lennon paid tribute to both Mark and his family, who he described as "the backbone of our club".

"Mark was an enthusiastic and talented footballer and hurler who played a huge part in our underage teams," he said.

"He was also a quiet and unassuming young man who always had a smile on his face.

"His family have been the cornerstone of our club since its foundation. We would like to take this opportunity to pass on our heartfelt condolences to his parents Mervyn and Felicity, sister Aideen and brother Paul and the wider Colgan and Stewart families, on behalf of the club and community."

The shock of the teen's death reverberated through the whole community.

Banbridge councillor Junior McCrum said: "It was a very sad thing to learn of this morning. I would like to convey my sympathy to the family concerned. Our thoughts and prayers go out to them".

South Down SDLP MLA Seán Rogers also paid tribute to the young road victim.

"My heart goes out to the boy's family, to his friends and the school community of St Colman's College, Newry, at this tragic time," he said.

"This is absolutely heartbreaking for the boy's family, and my thoughts and prayers are with them at this incredibly sad time."

Councillor Joan Baird of the UUP said: "My sincere and utmost sympathies go out to the family of the young boy.

"I am devastated, and I know the conditions on the road this morning were atrocious weather-wise. But I really am so sorry." UUP MLA Jo-Anne Dobson added: "My thoughts and prayers are with the family and friends of the teenage boy involved in this tragedy.

"The PSNI are currently appealing for information from anyone who was travelling on the Scarva Road just before 8am in the morning and who may have witnessed the incident. I would encourage anyone who can help in any way to get in touch with Banbridge PSNI."

Mark's school friends and peers took to social media to deal with their own grief on hearing the news, with one posting: 'May you be in the arms of the angels Mark, RIP.'

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