NW 200 crash victim's dad joins riders on tribute lap in memory of Malachi Mitchell-Thomas
The father of a rising young star of motorcycling, who was killed at this year's North West 200, has described his emotional return to the scene of the tragedy.
Kevin Thomas (51) was one of hundreds of riders who took part in a special tribute lap of the north coast roads held yesterday in memory of his son, 20-year-old racer Malachi Mitchell-Thomas from Lancashire.
Malachi died after a crash on the third lap of the Supertwin race at the NW200 in May.
Mr Thomas rode pillion on the back of a motorbike for the memorial ride, and revealed he had also made an emotional private visit on Saturday to the scene of the crash.
He told the Belfast Telegraph he had gone there on his own and it had been more difficult than passing the same spot on a motorbike yesterday, because during the tribute lap he had people around him "and you just get carried away in the moment and it wasn't about being sad at that place, it was about remembering the good quality of life".
Kevin, who said he is "coping" following his son's death, wished to thank everyone who played a part in the commemoration event.
"It is nice to know that the family of road racing came together to remember somebody they appreciated the talent of as a bike rider and his personality," he said.
He had a special word of thanks for Dungannon motorbike rider Ryan Farquhar who attended the event in a wheelchair.
Ryan was seriously injured in an horrific crash at this year's NW200 and his life hung in the balance for a while. Yesterday was the first time he had returned to the course since then.
Kevin said he was out on the course and had not been able to meet Ryan, but added: "I 100% appreciate that he could go to the trouble and that he was able to arrive and watch."
Mr Thomas added: "The event has been fantastically organised and run - it was just amazing.
"There were hundreds of riders and I was on the back of a bike ridden by a guy called David Holmes.
"It was quite emotional and I went and made sure I high-fived and shook the hands of everybody that was part of it."
During the event Kevin was pictured poignantly sitting on one of his son's racing bikes.
He also visited the Angel of Hope memorial garden in Coleraine to unveil a special tribute star to Malachi.
The garden - set up as a place where parents who have lost children can go to remember their loved ones - was founded by Andrea McAleese whose daughter Roma (3) was killed in a car accident in 2009.
Many who took part in yesterday's tribute lap wore hats similar to the one that was Malachi's trademark, a gesture organised by Ballyclare racer Jamie Hamilton who was injured last year.
Said Mr Thomas: "Such hats are not unconventional at a 'Stone Roses' gig, it is only unconventional at a road racing event. It was an icon of a different area of life that he brought to road racing."
Kevin revealed that during TV interviews after the tragedy he had worn Malachi's hat, but after the funeral he had given it to his son's mother as "something very special to remember him by".