Heartbroken daughter of crash victims Dean and Sandra Weir calls for tougher sentences for killer drivers
The heartbroken daughter of Dean and Sandra Weir has called for tougher sentences for killer drivers.
Katie Weir was orphaned when her mother and father were "wiped out" by boy racer Charles Hugh Macartney on March 17, 2017.
Yesterday Macartney (20) was jailed for 14 months, ordered to spend a further 14 months on supervised licence and banned from driving for five years.
Katie (25), from Portavogie, recalled how she was forced to tell her mother that her dad had passed away just a month before she watched her mum die in her arms.
She said she felt let down by "a sentence that won't serve as a deterrent to others".
Judges are bound by sentencing guidelines and must take into account mitigating circumstances, such as early guilty pleas, co-operation with police and remorse, as well as aggravating factors such as intent and excessive violence.
Still, it can be difficult for bereaved families to understand the punishment handed down.
Katie said: "My parents were wiped out when I was 23 but when the man who killed them is 23 he'll be out leading his life as if nothing has happened.
"If this is what passes for justice in Northern Ireland then it feels like the lives of victims are worth less than the perpetrators of crime.
"I'm very angry and extremely upset. Sometimes I wish I too died in that crash."
Mr Weir (52) was killed instantly in the collision on the Dunover Road in Ballyhalbert on St Patrick's Day two years ago.
His 51-year-old wife survived, but died a month later from multiple injuries sustained in the smash.
Revealing that she had to undertake the harrowing ordeal of identifying her dad's body, Katie also told how she informed her mother - while she was lying on a hospital operating table - that the "love of her life" was gone.
And she spoke of her desperate attempts to perform CPR on her only surviving parent who "took a turn" a month after the collision and died in the home the three of them once shared.
"This all happened during my last year at university and I was forced to attend my graduation ceremony alone," she said.
"I was in so much shock but that's when it really hit me that I was all alone. Everyone else had their families around them; I was by myself."
She added: "I still feel devastated and sad. I am an only child. Dangerous drivers don't realise the ripple effects of their crimes on the people left behind."
The Co Down woman recalled how her parents were on their way to meet friends in Dublin that St Patrick's Day when their Suzuki Alto collided with Macartney's Nissan Micra, which a court heard was "going as fast as it could".
She added: "They left just before 9am but they only made it to Ballyhalbert, which is 15 minutes away, when he hit them... and my dad died at the scene."
Katie had stayed with her then boyfriend the previous night and recalled how they had pulled in to let a police car pass them earlier that morning, not knowing that it was en route to the scene of the crash.
"It was only when I took a call later on that I learned my mum and dad had been in a car accident," she said.
"Dad died at 9.15am but I don't think I knew what had happened until 11.20am.
"He was killed instantly by a blow to the head, although he suffered other injuries including 10 broken ribs and a broken spine and fractured leg.
"I can't describe what it was like to get that awful news. I was in shock.
"The reality of what happened only started sinking in as I was on my way to the hospital. I felt like my heart was breaking.
"Mum was taken to the Royal in Belfast with a broken left leg, a broken arm, broken fingers and eight broken ribs. I was upset but I was really worried about how my mum was taking it. My dad was the love of her life, he was her best friend."
She added: "I was told that I would have to tell her that dad had died because she wasn't fully conscious previously.
"I went into the theatre room while they were plastering her leg because I thought it would be best to tell her as soon as I saw her. She was devastated but I'm not sure if she really understood because she was in shock."
After a fortnight in hospital and another week at a nurse friend's house, Katie's mum returned home in a wheelchair.
"She came home because she wanted to be in her own surroundings with my dad - even though he wasn't there," she said.
"Mum could only stay downstairs in a pull-out bed. I was trying my best to look after her, study for university and work at the same time."
Recalling her mum's death on April 23 Katie, whose electrician boyfriend Scott (31) has been a great comfort to her, said her last words to her mother were: "See you in the morning."
"I didn't think that something was going to happen and that that would end up being the last time I spoke to her," she said.
"All of a sudden I heard our dog crying around 1am. I went downstairs and she was clawing at mum's door. Mum was on her commode and she couldn't say anything. I panicked.
"I moved her onto the bed - all she could say was she was in pain and she wanted to die. By this time my partner, whom I'd called, had arrived and he phoned an ambulance.
"Mum was screaming and deteriorating fast. She fell onto the floor.
"I didn't know what was happening. I could see the life starting to drain from her and I started CPR.
"I did it for 15 minutes until the first responders arrived and worked on her for another 26 minutes but by the time the ambulance got there she had a very weak pulse.
"They worked on her for about 16 minutes before they told me she didn't make it.
"But I knew that already. I'd watched the life slowly drain out of her when she was lying in my arms."
Existence has been difficult for Katie, who still lives in the house she shared with her parents, and she revealed that she keeps their cremated remains there too.
"Graduation, just after mum had died, was tough," she said, adding that she helps look after her granny Violet Weir, who is in her 70s and lives in Bangor.
"Everyone else had their families but I was by myself," she added.
But the desire to get justice for her mum and dad has now become her principal motivator.
"It's not just that - more recognition needs to be given to the fact that once a crash has happened it's not just the people who died who are affected, it's the people left behind," said Katie, who attended the same school as Macartney, her parents' killer.
"There are ripples. I'm on my own. It's just me now.
"People need to know that once you kill someone in a car - whether it's by drink-driving, being on your phone or dangerous driving - you cause devastation to other people.
"I don't think enough victims are heard or speak out about the consequences or the aftermath of it.
"I felt alone at graduation. It was heart-wrenching for me."
Katie added: "I want to make a difference for other people. There's no support in Northern Ireland for crash victims."