Mother of NW200 crash victim says daughter does not want race banned
The woman seriously injured in a horrific crash at the North West 200 on Saturday does not want the road races banned over safety concerns, her mother has said.
Violet McAfee and her family still firmly support Northern Ireland's most famous motorbike racing event despite the "freak" accident which left her with a severely fractured left leg and a hairline fracture to the skull.
Ms McAfee's mother Kathleen told the Belfast Telegraph that her 44-year-old daughter was "some woman" as she recuperates at the Royal Victoria Hospital in Belfast.
She was moved out of intensive care on Monday, and her condition continues to improve in a general ward.
Co Antrim road racer Stephen Thompson is also recovering from serious but non-life-threatening injuries in the same hospital where he is now stable, fully conscious and has been chatting with his family.
The 37-year-old was one of three riders involved in the crash that sent one bike flying through the air and into the garden where Ms McAfee was watching Saturday's first race with her boyfriend at a friend's house.
Austrian racer Hurst Saiger is back home in Liechtenstein after being discharged from hospital with a broken arm while English rider Dean Harrison escaped relatively unscathed. Mrs Kathleen McAfee told how her youngest daughter Violet was a road racing fan just like the rest of the family.
She said: "When her father James told Violet yesterday that there was talk about stopping the North West 200 due to safety concerns as a spectator was seriously hurt, Violet said, 'Whatever for?'
"That's her attitude and ours too. This was a freak accident.
"Nothing like this has ever happened before in all the years of racing.
"We've never known of a spectator to be hurt.
"Nobody intended to go out and hurt anyone, or hurt themselves.
"It was just one of those unfortunate things and a great shock to us all."
The injured woman is a civil servant and mother of a 19-year-old son, Jim. She was enjoying the Superstock Race in the front garden of a friend's house in Portstewart on Saturday morning when the crash occurred between the York Corner and Mill Road Roundabout on the second lap.
The love of road racing runs deep in the McAfee family. Ms McAfee's twin sister Elizabeth's husband has previously taken part in road races.
While now stable, Mrs McAfee said that her daughter has a long journey ahead of her.
"It will be a slow recovery. By the grace of God she will hopefully be up and about again. She is as well as she is because of God's people praying for her," she said.
"Violet is so athletic, she walks and runs a lot. She's a strong, fit young woman and in two weeks she was due to do the Race for Life around Stormont with her twin sister."
Mr Thompson lives with his partner Charlotte in Crumlin, Co Antrim, and the couple both have daughters from previous relationships.
He is a regular competitor at the North West event, the Isle of Man TT, Ulster Grand Prix and Macau Grand Prix.
It's understood that Mr Thompson's Pennz13.com Bathams BMW team bike collided with Saiger's bike as they tried to avoid Harrison, who had crashed ahead of them.
Mrs McAfee said that she hopes to speak with Mr Thompson and his family as soon as possible.
"We are concerned for him as he needs prayer just as much as Violet," she said.
Race director Mervyn Whyte promised a full and speedy investigation into the crash.
"The organisers of the North West 200 will offer our full support to Violet and Stephen and their families.
"I want to assure them that they are in our thoughts and prayers throughout this time.
"We will look at this incident to see if there is anything further that can be done.
"The investigation will be carried out fairly quickly and issued from the governing body of the sport. We will receive that and then decide what we need to do for the future."