Belfast Telegraph

Award joy for Stewart family just months after crash killed dad Neil

By Claire Williamson

It was a horror crash that changed their lives for ever.

But Sandra Stewart is grateful every day for the positivity of her children and their determination which has helped her to keep going.

Her husband Neil (49), a father-of-six, was killed in a motorcycle crash last September near Newry.

Mr Stewart was a former Territorial Army soldier who served in Afghanistan.

Sandra (48), who was also on the bike, was seriously injured, losing most of her left knee-cap, and is still recovering.

It was the second tragedy to strike the family from Markethill in Co Armagh - Neil's brother Howard died in a crash in the same area almost 13 years ago.

Sandra told the Belfast Telegraph of her pride in her children, who are aged from 17 to 30, and how their dad would have been so thrilled at their determination and achievements.

She was speaking after their youngest son, Kelsie (17), received a Mary Peters Trust Award which will see him travel to Canada later this summer.

"I'm very proud of them, all of them. They have been amazing," she said.

"They are not in any way over what happened, but they just still want to go and do the things they promised they would do - they don't want to let anybody down."

But Sandra admitted it is hard sometimes as she misses the advice that only her husband could have given them.

"It's just hard to watch. You are hurt for yourself and you are hurt for the kids," she added.

"There are so many times, and certain things they need their dad for and you can't help them with it."

Sandra said her husband was an extremely loyal person.

She continued: "He just loved life. He loved his kids and if he was your friend he was the best friend you could possibly have."

Sandra is grateful for her family who have helped her through her ongoing recovery.

She has undergone a lot of physiotherapy and - as she is still not driving following the crash - her children have helped with taking her to appointments.

"You do go over it [the events of the night]," she explained, "and you sometimes question why it happened, but our very strong Christian faith helps us through it all.

"It's very hard, the house doesn't feel the same without him in it - it's as simple as that."

Sandra told how she still gets flashbacks to the night of the accident, and will never forget what she saw.

She said: "Some of it I don't remember. And you think could you have done anything differently.

"[At the time] it's a case of 'is this real'. I knew the bike was going to go down and it still doesn't cross your mind, and when I came round I expected him to run over and say 'are you okay'.

"I sort of looked and saw him lying on the floor and then I realised."

But Sandra is spurred on by her husband's attitude to life and how he was never happy sitting in the house and always liked to be on the go, or planning the next event.

She told how Neil would have been so proud of Kelsie, whose Mary Peters Trust Award will enable him to take part in the British Cadet 2018 Rifle Team (The Athelings) tour to Canada in August.

She said: "[The funding] is very much appreciated and really helps with getting the equipment that they need to go and do their best. If it wasn't for the sponsorship, it would be hard to afford it all and it's great that it allows them to go and do all those things."

Kelsie added: "It's brilliant. A lot of people including myself wouldn't be able to do what we have without being able to get the funding."

He hopes to go on to become part of the GB under-19 team and continue his shooting career.

Sandra said that while the pain of missing her husband and the children missing their dad never goes away, they are comforted when they all get together.

She added: "Every minute of every day you just miss him in the house, even just the simplest of things, even at the dinner table.

"The tiniest of things, even for the kids; Kelsie is now learning to drive and Neil taught all the rest of them how to drive. You just miss that he's not there even to do that or help them do that.

"The kids have been amazing and in helping me as well and running around after me because I'm not driving again yet."

She added, however: "As hard as things are, you can still have a laugh and you still all get together.

"We pick ourselves up and try and do what we can. It's not easy. It's not something that you come to terms with - you learn to live with it."

Belfast Telegraph

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