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Coach driver is found guilty of causing death of NI football fan

By Victoria Leonard

A bus driver has been found guilty of causing the death of a Co Antrim Rangers fan, who died in an horrific coach crash in Scotland as he travelled to watch his beloved team play.

Magheramorne man Ryan Baird (39), a father of twin sons and who was engaged to be married, died on October 1, 2016 after the coach in which he was travelling overturned at a roundabout in East Ayrshire.

The bus had 37 passengers on board, including members of Nith Valley Rangers Supporters' Club, who were on their way to a match between Rangers and Partick Thistle at Ibrox.

Bus driver Callum Phillips (49), from Dalbeattie, had denied causing death by dangerous driving.

During the trial, the High Court in Glasgow heard that Phillips was driving at speeds of up to 73mph shortly before the collision.

Phillips had claimed that the brakes on the bus were not working, but experts found no defects when examining them, according to the BBC.

Prosecutor Richard Goddard told the court that "the bus came round the roundabout like a rollercoaster".

On Thursday, Phillips was found guilty and will return for sentencing at Glasgow High Court on June 28.

The maximum penalty for causing death by dangerous driving in Scotland is 14 years' imprisonment.

The court can also impose an unlimited period of disqualification from driving.

The verdict has come at a particularly painful time for Ryan's family, as his father Alex did not live to see it.

Mr Baird senior (59), who had previously told the Belfast Telegraph that he visited his son's grave several times a week, passed away on Friday, May 18 and was buried on Monday - just days before the trial verdict was delivered. He died on what would have been his late son's 41st birthday, and his funeral service was held in Magheramorne Presbyterian Church, 19 months after Ryan's. The family had asked that donations in lieu of flowers be made to the Macmillan Unit at Antrim Area Hospital after Mr Baird senior's death.

In a moving tribute to his late father, Ryan's brother John wrote online: "Sadly I couldn't be with you in your last few days but you know I was attending to another family matter."

And Nith Valley Loyal Rangers Supporters Club wrote: "Rest easy Alex and tell Ryan we're missing his 'craic'."

Yesterday, chairman of Larne Rangers Supporters Club Richard Todd said that it was unfortunate that Alex didn't live to see justice done for his son.

After Ryan's death, the gates of the football club, which he had supported before he moved to Sanquhar in Dumfries and Galloway, were adorned with memorial tributes.

Mr Todd said: "I knew Ryan quite well, he was a member of our club for around seven years, and it was very hard on everyone in Larne when he died.

"I think people just wanted to find out what happened and to know the truth.

"It must have been very hard for the family, to lose him in the middle of the trial. He added: "I am sure the family will want to draw a line under it now."

Mr Todd said that he would remember Ryan as "a character."

"He wasn't the shy type - he was good craic, a good laugh. It's a pity he was taken too soon."

An annual football tournament named The Ryan Baird Memorial Cup was established by the Larne and Nith Valley Rangers supporters' clubs.

Next Saturday, the Larne team will travel to Sanquhar for the second annual tournament.

Belfast Telegraph

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