Road horror: Family's anguish as boy dies after mum and six children knocked down on way to school in Co Antrim
An eight-year-old boy died after he, his young siblings and their mother were struck by a car as they walked to school - just weeks after she begged for a bus service over fears her family would be "wiped out".
Adam Gilmour was killed and his mother, named locally as Sarah, was seriously injured after a collision in which four more of her children were hurt.
The crash happened on the Loughill Road in the Co Antrim village of Cloughmills at around 8.30am yesterday.
One child was transferred from Antrim Area Hospital to the Royal Victoria Hospital, where they were last night stable, while two were later discharged.
Another was said to be in a stable condition at Antrim, as was their mother, who was being treated at Causeway.
One child was uninjured and was last night being comforted by relatives.
An 18-year-old man was arrested in connection with the crash.
He was later released on police bail pending further enquiries.
The woman was known to have walked with the children along the half-mile stretch every morning, where they met a bus at the bottom of the road to take them to Clough Primary School.
She had recently urged the local education board to provide transport along the road, fearing her children's lives were at risk.
"I am appalled by today's tragic news from Cloughmills," TUV MLA Jim Allister said.
"The event is all the more distressing because just three weeks ago the mother called at my office and warned that because the education and library board was failing to provide transport for her children they would be "wiped out" some morning on the road. The lady was particularly concerned that this situation was continuing into the winter months.
"I am most distressed that her words have proved to be much more prophetic than anyone would have thought.
"I wrote to the transport department of the North Eastern Education and Library Board (NEELB) highlighting the fact that she had to bring five children to meet the school bus in Cloughmills because the NEELB refused to collect the children close to their own home.
"The fact that this accident waiting to happen had been highlighted to the education and library board, and their inactivity continued, lays responsibility on the NEELB.
"I am very angry and distressed that this situation was allowed to develop."
In a statement, the NEELB confirmed that it had received correspondence from Mr Allister and the board had "been reviewing transport provision in the Cloughmills area".
"The board had agreed to meet with Mr Allister to discuss the concerns raised in his statement," it said.
"As a result of the road traffic collision the board is focused on working closely with the schools and the family. Our thoughts and prayers are with the family at this time."
Karen Magill of the Federation of Passenger Transport NI said every child should have access to school transport.
"This is a devastating tragedy and our hearts go out to the family of the young boy who was killed on our roads today," she said. "A recent independent review was carried out into the provision of home to school transport in Northern Ireland. It is imperative that the report and its recommendations are now published.
"We must do all we can to ensure that every single one of our children travel to school in complete safety."
A heartbroken relative of the family said the woman was "a great mother to wonderful children".
"The children are her life," she said.
"They are lovely 'wains' and always immaculately turned out.
"She just dotes on them."
The mayor of Ballymoney, Bill Kennedy, was in tears at the scene.
His DUP colleague John Finlay said it was a "horrific tragedy". "It's a terrible thing, and my thoughts are with the family," he said. PSNI Chief Inspector Stephen McCauley said: "Adam, his mother and five siblings were making their way to school this morning when the collision happened.
"His mother, along with four of his siblings, are currently receiving treatment in hospital at present for a range of injuries, some of which are serious.
"One child was not injured and is being looked after by a relative."
The senior officer said Adam was the 69th person to die on Northern Ireland's roads this year.
"The fact that a child has died on the way to school this morning heaps tragedy upon an already stark figure," he added.
Floral tributes were last night left at the scene.