Belfast Telegraph

Dark numbness of shock eclipses Easter sunshine as a town tries to cope with loss

By Rebecca Black

Just a mile from the sunny north coast beach where scores of families were enjoying their bank holiday lay a scene of unimaginable horror.

It was a crash so severe that even seasoned emergency workers were left shocked by what they had witnessed in the early hours of Easter Monday. And all of it was magnified by the close-knit nature of Ballycastle, which meant that they knew many of the injured.

As the sun came out yesterday, thousands of families from across Northern Ireland flocked to the north coast to enjoy what turned out to be our hottest day of the year so far.

They flooded into the likes of Portrush and Ballycastle, brimming with holiday spirit, but while the local welcome was as warm as ever, those native to the area were reeling from the devastating news of the overnight horror crash which has so far left two young people dead and a further five injured.

News of how those who remained in hospital were faring dominated most of the conversations among locals.

As councillor Cara McShane pointed out, everyone in the town knew at least one of those who had been involved in the crash.

The Cushendall Road, a designated scenic route, takes in some of the most beautiful landscapes in Northern Ireland, cutting across the sculpted Glens of Antrim before the distinctive coastline comes into view and the road starts to dip down into Ballycastle.

This final stretch of this route, within sight of the town, was where the terrible crash took place.

It remained cordoned off for most of the day, but the chaos of the crash was still clearly visible behind the police tape.

The aftermath of what police have described as a head-on collision between two cars saw a black coloured Peugeot 207 lying on its roof and a silver Volkswagen Bora partially stuck in a hedge after having struck a telegraph pole. The horror of the scene was even more heightened by the realisation that seven young people were in the two cars as they exploded into wreckage in the early hours of Easter Monday morning.

Teenager Johnny Black was the first life claimed in the tragedy. Locals described the 19-year-old as a popular young man who was passionate about the haulage business he would one day have inherited from his father Seamus.

Seamus Black Livestock Haulage, just outside Ballycastle, was not the usual busy concern yesterday. The great machines were silent as workers and friends of the family gathered in the yard to show their support and solidarity at the loss of the family's son and their colleague.

The talk among locals in the town itself all day was of how those that remained in hospital were faring, and a fervent hope for good news.

By the afternoon that hope was dashed for the family and friends of Armoy man Robin Wilson after he died in hospital.

Another popular young man, he was described by the former mayor of Ballymoney, Bill Kennedy as a "lovely big fella".

Yesterday evening an anxious vigil was being kept at the bedside of the young woman who remained critically ill in the Royal Victoria Hospital in Belfast.

Clodagh Arbuckle (18), a sixth form pupil at Cross and Passion College in Ballycastle, was battling for her life with what's thought to be serious head injuries. She is well known in the town from her weekend job at one of the local chip shops.

Easter is looked forward to by families, taking time out from school and work to come together and enjoy each other's company, but Easter weekend for several families in Ballycastle will now be indelibly tainted as a result of the terrible events that unfolded on Monday morning.

Belfast Telegraph


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