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Second inquest into teens' road deaths may call police who didn't give statements

By Victoria Leonard

Not all the police officers who attended the scene of a collision in which two Enniskillen teenagers died gave witness statements afterwards, a court was told yesterday.

Devenish College pupils Debbie Whyte (14) and Nathan Gault (15) were struck by a Renault Megane as they walked home along the Croaghrim road at Florencecourt in Co Fermanagh on November 27, 2008.

A legal representative for one of the families of the two victims questioned whether one of the young victims could have lived if they had been found sooner.

The Public Prosecution Service previously decided no one would be prosecuted in relation to the accident.

Yesterday's preliminary inquiry at Belfast Coroner's Court came ahead of a second inquest ordered by Attorney General John Larkin into the two deaths.

The first inquest, in March 2010, heard how Nathan, Debbie and a third teenager, Wayne Manley, who was not physically hurt - got off a school bus and were walking on a dark road while wearing dark uniforms when the tragedy occurred.

That inquest concluded that wearing "illuminating clothing" could have prevented the deaths of the two school friends.

Yesterday, a barrister for the Gault family described it as "somewhat surprising" that some of the police officers who witnessed the scene "didn't make a statement at all".

At the time of the accident, it was reported that emergency services tended to Debbie and it was believed Nathan had left the scene while suffering from shock.

His body was subsequently found in his uncle's garden.

The Gaults' barrister also said that there "could be suggestions that the body of Nathan could have been found earlier" and asked: "Would that have made a difference?"

He also revealed that Nathan's mother, Joanne Gault, had made a request for seven additional witnesses to be called as part of the second inquest, including the police officers who attended the scene.

Outlining the agenda for proceedings, counsel for the coroner said that the initial 999 call from the Ambulance Service would be circulated to the parties.

A mobile phone expert and a road collisions expert have confirmed their availability for proceedings.

Speaking outside court, Debbie Whyte's sister, Louise, who still lives in Florencecourt, said her younger sister's death had "devastated two families".

"It's still very raw for my family," she added. "It's nearly nine years now and it's still hard.

"Our family just wants answers as to what happened. We want closure as we are still wondering. We always think about what Debbie could have made of her life - simple things like her 18th or 21st birthdays.

"It has taken its toll on us and we would be very close to Nathan's family.

"Myself and most of my siblings still live in Florencecourt near where it happened, and we have to pass that spot nearly every day."

After Debbie and Nathan died, three schools in Fermanagh redesigned their uniforms to incorporate reflective stripes.

"That is the only good thing to come out of this," Louise said.

"It would be great if all schools introduced reflective strips on school uniforms."

A second preliminary hearing will take place on Wednesday, May 17.

The formal inquest into the deaths is expected to be held on May 24 and 25.

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