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Bittersweet homecoming for virus survivor Geoffrey McKillop as he hears lifelong friend and her daughter died in quad bike crash

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Geoffrey McKillop leaves hospital

Geoffrey McKillop leaves hospital

Son Mark and partner Emma with grandson Alexander

Son Mark and partner Emma with grandson Alexander

Clare Smyth with Hannah and Bethany

Clare Smyth with Hannah and Bethany

Geoffrey McKillop leaves hospital

A Co Antrim coronavirus survivor given just hours to live four weeks ago got to see his newborn grandson for the first time as he returned home yesterday.

But for Geoffrey McKillop (56) the joy at arriving back in Bushmills was tempered by learning that a good friend had lost her life in a road crash this week.

Now being looked after by his mother Lily, Geoffrey's home sits opposite that of the Dobbin family, who were left devastated by the death of daughter Clare Smyth (35) and her child Bethany (3) in Tuesday's tragic accident in Ballycastle.

Dad Ryan remains at the hospital bedside of his other daughter Hannah (5), who was injured in the quad bike crash and is now showing signs of recovery.

Geoffrey's sister Anne McClelland said that emotions were very mixed.

"We know we're sitting here now having come out on the right side of this, but Geoffrey is now looking out of his window at the house across the road and he's devastated to have learned what has happened," she explained.

"Geoffrey knew Clare and her sister Michelle from when they were little girls.

"This is a day when we find ourselves in a happy place, and it was lovely to see so many out in Bushmills to welcome Geoffrey home when we drove through the village, but all our sympathies go to the Dobbin and Smyth families.

"What happened has devastated the whole community here.

"We might be on cloud nine having seen Geoffrey make it safely home, but we're heartbroken over what has happened these past couple of days."

Geoffrey was cheered as he left Causeway Hospital around lunchtime on Friday.

The doctors and nurses who had cared for him gathered to wave him off.

Mr McKillop paid tribute to the hospital staff who cared for him.

"We shouldn't lose sight of that - these people saved me," he said.

"It'll be nice to be home."

Later he got a hero's welcome in the village.

And among those lining the street to welcome him was his new grandson, born just two days after the family had been told doctors had done everything they could to save Geoffrey and he had just hours to live.

Alexander Geoffrey Aaron McKillop was born last month in Antrim Area Hospital to Geoffrey's son Mark and his girlfriend Emma.

And Geoffrey got his first look at the four-week-old, who was among those gathered outside his Cods Way restaurant in Bushmills yesterday.

The businessman, who also owns the Hip Chip restaurant in the village, will now be treated to some home comforts, as his mum will be looking after him as he recovers.

"He's landed on his feet, and our mum will be in her element," said Anne.

"No matter what you do in life, your son's always your son!

"We've had a bedroom made ready for Geoffrey.

"He has his TV and will be delighted to be able to see something other than the sky out of the window.

"But we've already had to scold him.

"He wanted us to take him for a run to Portstewart and Portrush and come through Portballintrae on the way home.

"But we're not going to let him run before he can walk. We'll have to be firm with him."

Anne, who works as a staff nurse at Causeway Hospital, said all he wants now is a good old fry-up.

"We've been to town, got the sausages, bacon, eggs and soda. He's trying to build his strength up with some of our mum's home cooking," she added.

"The pair of them were so emotional when he landed at the front door. She's as chuffed as he is.

"He has a good bit of catching up to do after being in hospital for 40 days and spending two weeks on a ventilator.

"But we're there for him and the whole village is there for him.

"Now we know he will get the chance to meet his new grandson properly, and he's really looking forward to his first trip back to the promenade in Portstewart when his strength returns and he gets through the next few weeks of isolation."

The businessman had been admitted to hospital on April 5 after suffering symptoms at home for 10 days.

He was quickly put on a ventilator, which he remained on for more than two weeks, until April 25.

His recovery is long overdue good news for the family, who have endured several tragedies in the past.

Geoffrey's daughter Heather passed away on April 22 last year.

The family had a brother, Nigel, die from silent pneumonia at just three years old.

And two sisters, Carol and Heather McKillop, lost their lives in a car crash in 1980.

"We know how hard the doctors and nurses in Causeway fought for Geoffrey," said Anne.

"They were with him every step of the way, and for that we will be forever grateful."

Belfast Telegraph