Heartbroken father tells of cradling body of his 'angel' killed in road accident
The grief-stricken father of a young boy who died after a road accident has described his son as "an angel".
Eight-year-old Daniel Bradley died after the incident near Maghera, Co Londonderry, on Thursday night.
In an emotional interview, his father James relived how he and his wife Janice cradled their son in their arms and kissed him in the ambulance after he passed away.
The collision, involving a car, occurred near the entrance to a service station on Maghera's Glenshane Road at around 8pm on Thursday.
James (36), a well-known singer-songwriter, described his son as a "loving and caring child" and said the family are feeling "numb" in the wake of the tragedy.
"We are still looking out in case he is on the trampoline or singing or jumping into bed - it hasn't sunk in yet," he told the Belfast Telegraph.
"Daniel was autistic, he didn't really have very much danger awareness, and he found it difficult to adapt to the world.
"He was in the shop with his mum Janice, they were getting things for the kids' lunches the next day, and he dashed out.
"We don't know what scared him.
"I was teaching guitar and my father came down to get me.
"I went up and they were working on him and had put him in an ambulance.
"After they had finished working on him, my wife and I got to see him and got to spend a bit of time with him.
"He had already passed away.
"We held him and kissed him, we talked to him, he wasn't alone.
"He didn't suffer."
James said that Daniel, who has three sisters and had just started P5 class at Kilronan School, was "perfect in every way".
"Due to his autism he had difficulty communicating, but he loved music and singing," he continued.
"He was very special and unique, everyone who met him took time to get to know him.
"He was so sweet, such a caring child.
"He was an angel, he is an angel.
"Even though he had difficulties with autism and couldn't say 'I love you', he used to make the wee hand signal.
"It was difficult with his autism, but we always said he was different, not less."
James said the reality of their loss "hasn't sunk in yet" for the family.
"My wife and I are just trying to take it all in," he continued.
"We are just taking it hour by hour.
"He was the soul of the house and everything revolved around him.
"His sisters Lucy (13), Emily (9) and Katy (7) can't really grasp it.
"We hope to get a bit of counselling within the next week.
"He also had an assistance dog called Ebony, who helped him with his daily routine, and he was quite close to her.
"Ebony knows that there is something wrong."
As the news of his son's death broke on social media, James uploaded a video of himself and Daniel singing the Coldplay song 'Fix You', with his daughter Katy looking on in the background.
He attached the message: "Fly High Dan The Man. Till we meet again."
James said that the short video had been taken during a walk last Sunday.
"It was like a tribute to him," he explained.
"He sang like an angel."
James also paid tribute to his son's school, who he said were "absolutely amazing".
"Kilronan School has such a fantastic set-up, they worked so closely with Daniel and his needs," he added.
"He had just gone back to school, they were absolutely amazing."
James, who lost his brother Alex to suicide in 2005 and is an advocate for special needs and mental health, said that Daniel's funeral will take place at 1pm tomorrow in the church of St Patrick's Glen Maghera, with burial after in the adjacent churchyard.
"If any good comes out of this it will be to increase awareness of autism," James continued.
"Daniel taught us to step into his world.
"A world filled with challenges and differing perspectives.
"He taught us to embrace autism and we quickly learned from him that different is not less.
"Dan the Man - forever in our hearts.
"He will be sorely missed, but always fondly remembered.
"The funeral will be open to everyone, and we would ask anyone who wishes to make a donation to donate to Assistance Dogs NI or, through the family, to the Mid Ulster FACTS support group for families affected by autism."
Kilronan School said Daniel's death had caused "great shock and sadness".
They said: "Daniel was a much-loved member of our school community.
"He was lively, full of fun and popular with all who knew him.
"We extend our deepest sympathy to his parents, sisters, grandparents and wider family circle at this very sad time, and we ask that you would keep them in your thoughts and prayers."
Mid Ulster SDLP MLA Patsy McGlone said the community was in shock.
"Most of us cannot begin to imagine what the family are feeling upon receiving this devastating news," he said.
PSNI Inspector Andy Harvison said: "We are investigating the circumstances of the collision and would like to hear from witnesses or anyone who may have captured dashcam footage.
"Please call 101, quoting reference number 1212 20/09/18."