Belfast Telegraph

I wasn't speeding when I crashed into family, motorist Stephen Austin tells inquest

By Allan Preston

A driver has denied going too fast before a crash in Co Antrim that claimed the life of a young boy.

Adam Gilmour (8) was walking on Loughill Road, Cloughmills, with his mother and five siblings to catch the school bus on November 11, 2014 when he was knocked down by a red Peugeot.

He died from his injuries in hospital. His mother Sarah Hanna and his brother Ryan were also injured.

At an inquest in Ballymena yesterday, driver Stephen Austin (22) disputed a claim from the victim's aunt that he admitted to her he was driving too fast.

Michelle Johnston told the inquest she arrived at the scene shortly afterwards and asked Mr Austin what happened, claiming he said he lost control after speeding round the corner of the narrow country road.

A barrister for the driver said his client denied this, and questioned why Ms Johnston had not mentioned it to police at the time.

Mr Austin told the court he had been taking his normal route to his college course for mechanical engineering that morning when he came upon the Gilmour family suddenly over the crest of a hill.

They were walking on the left hand side of the road at the time.

Mr Austin said Ms Hanna was pushing a buggy and had a young child walking on either side of her.

He said he tried to turn right to avoid them but the car wouldn't respond.

"The only option was to turn the car into the ditch," he said.

"But before it came to a stop I collided with the mother and children."

He agreed the incident had been"traumatic and distressing".

Constable Grimes from the PSNI's collision investigation unit attended the scene.

He later recommended Mr Austin should be prosecuted for causing death by dangerous driving, but in 2017 the Public Prosecution Service chose not to press charges.

Taking the stand yesterday, Constable Grimes said forensic evidence showed Mr Austin had been travelling between 49mph and 55mph at the moment of collision in an area where the speed limit was 60mph.

The Gilmour family maintain Ms Hanna had been walking at the back of the group at all times, and all were in single file.

Forensic evidence also shows that at the point of collision, Ms Hanna did not have children positioned at her side. Constable Grimes said that two of the other children walking to the bus stop that morning said Adam had been at the back of the group.

Kyle Gilmour said he was certain of this, as brother Adam had been "a slow walker".

Another child, Bethany, recalled being hit by the car and that Adam had been walking at the back of the group behind his mother at the time.

Sarah Hanna has also said she was walking on the left-hand side of the road at that time, rather than facing oncoming traffic, as it was safer to do so at that point in the road.

Eyewitness Ruth Forsythe had passed the family shortly before the accident.

Her police statement at the time said Ms Hanna was walking with three children at the back and two in front.

She said she would often have seen the family walking on the road "day and night", and added "they didn't seem to have any road sense".

A barrister for the Gilmour family rejected this, saying the family would not have been out at night-time, and Ms Hanna always acted appropriately on the road.

During her evidence yesterday, Ms Johnston also said the family had been trying to arrange for the school bus to pick the children up directly from their house. She said both County Hall and bus driver had refused to agree to this.

A barrister for the education authority said TUV MLA Jim Allister had written to it to request if this could be changed.

The barrister said the matter was being considered by the authority and the family had been due to meet with representatives on the morning of the accident.

The barrister questioned why the victim's family had also not raised the matter of the bus complaint to police at the time.

The inquest continues.

Belfast Telegraph

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