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Devastated Ryan Smyth heard bang from crash that killed wife Clare and little Bethany (3)


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Clare Smyth and her two daughters Hannah and Bethany

Clare Smyth and her two daughters Hannah and Bethany

Clare Smyth and her two daughters Hannah and Bethany

The heartbroken husband of a Co Antrim woman who died alongside her three-year-old daughter on a quad bike was just yards away from his family when the horrific crash occurred.

Clare Smyth (35) and her youngest child Bethany were killed instantly when their vehicle collided with a tractor on the Whitepark Road in Ballycastle just before 5pm on Tuesday.

Ryan Smyth's surviving daughter Hannah, who is five years old, underwent life-saving surgery after being airlifted to Belfast's Royal Victoria Hospital for Sick Children, where she remains critically ill.

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The scene of the accident in Ballycastle

The scene of the accident in Ballycastle

Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press E

The scene of the accident in Ballycastle

Her devastated father Ryan is maintaining a prayerful vigil at her bedside.

The Belfast Telegraph understands that Mr Smyth, a well-known farmer in his 30s, and his wife had been tending their garden with Hannah and Bethany prior to the tragedy that has left the small community stunned and grief-stricken.

Clare and the girls are believed to have been using the quad bike, which had a small trailer attached, to move plants destined for a new flower bed they had just created.

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The crash happened close to the entrance to the family farm on the outskirts of Ballycastle, on the road towards Ballintoy and the Giant's Causeway.

It is thought that Clare was taking a shortcut to another part of the farm when the fatal collision with their neighbour occurred.

A source close to the family said Mr Smyth "heard a massive bang and immediately ran to the nearby road, where he was met with an unimaginable scene".

The source added: "He realised almost right away that there was nothing he could do for Clare.

"But he cradled those two wee girls in his arms as he waited for help to come.

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Flowers and a child’s toy left near the scene of the crash

Flowers and a child’s toy left near the scene of the crash

Photopress

Flowers and a child’s toy left near the scene of the crash

"Poor Ryan was in a terrible state of shock, as was the driver of the tractor.

"It's an unimaginable thing that's happened here. Nobody can believe it."

Mrs Smyth and Bethany were pronounced dead at the scene.

Local councillor Adrian McQuillan described the Smyths as "a hard-working Christian family" and said: "It's time for our prayers and support."

The DUP politician added: "The whole community is praying for Hannah. We desperately want her to come through this.

"Everyone's thoughts and prayers are also with Ryan and the tractor driver and both their families."

Mrs Smyth, who is originally from Bushmills, is the daughter of retail worker Eleanor Dobbin and her late husband Dan.

The mother-of-two, who has a sister called Michelle, was a voluntary Girls Brigade officer at Dunluce Presbyterian Church.

Her injured daughter Hannah, a pupil at Dunseverick Primary School in Bushmills, is also a Guide there.

Bethany, who was due to start pre-school at Dunseverick in September, was treated at the scene of the accident then taken to the Causeway Coast Hospital before being airlifted to Belfast.

Her parents had been married for 15 years, having celebrated their wedding on Clare's 21st birthday.

North Antrim MP Ian Paisley told the Belfast Telegraph it was an "unthinkable loss".

"It's almost impossible to imagine what this family is going through," he said.

"We can only hope that love, compassion and prayer will be able to get around this family and help them."

Ulster Unionist councillor Joan Baird, who knows Ryan's father Gregg well, said the family were broken by grief.

"They are a young family. Everyone is numbed by this terrible accident," she added.

"There's a sense of real shock that this has happened on our doorstep at a time when it's unusually quiet on the roads due to the coronavirus crisis.

"There'll be so many people feeling that, due to social distancing, they can't go and actually give them the support and help that they need so much at this time."

TUV MLA Jim Allister said Ryan and Gregg were well-known dairy farmers and had installed one of the first robotic milking systems in the area.

Sinn Fein councillor Cara McShane said it was her understanding that Hannah was responding well to treatment in hospital.

"The Smyth family is well respected in the local area and runs a very clean organic farm that sold ice cream to the passing tourists," she added.

"The farm has always been ahead of its time in terms of technology.

"For the last six weeks during the Covid-19 lockdown, the tourists have gone and we have been used to only the essential farm traffic on the roads.

"There was something of a wider calm in the area before this latest accident catapulted the community into a state of grief and anxiety.

"It's a tight-knit community around here and when the blue lights, sirens and helicopters descended here on Tuesday afternoon, everyone in the area felt the impact.

"Our thoughts go to the family and to the child in hospital for a speedy recovery.

"I also want to pay tribute to all the emergency services that attended the scene.

"It must have been very difficult for them."

Shocked friends posted messages on social media praying for Hannah's recovery and expressing their grief.

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