Our lives are now over, say parents of Newry child Nicole Fegan who was killed in buggy crash
The parents of a 12-year-old girl who died when the beach buggy in which she was travelling crashed into a pick-up truck have said they will never get over their loss.
Nicole Fegan died from injuries sustained in the accident on the Flagstaff Road near Newry in November 2017.
Yesterday the 16-year-old driver responsible wept as an 18-month probation order was handed out at Craigavon Youth Court.
District Judge Des Perry also banned the person, who cannot be identified because of their age, from driving for four years.
Although defence QC Gregory Berry argued that Mr Perry could impose a 12 or 18-month driving ban, the judge said he had considered "the impact it would have on the parents of Nicole to see the defendant driving around the roads in a relatively short period of time".
"To my mind that would be horrendous," added the judge, as Nicole's mum Margo wept quietly in the public gallery, just a few feet from the person who caused her daughter's death, constantly holding the hand of her husband Cathal.
At the end of the hearing, defence solicitor Gerald Trainor told Judge Perry that the sentence would be appealed.
Outside court, Nicole's parents spoke of the impact the tragedy still has on them.
Mr Fegan said: "We have a lifetime of not having Nicole with us and (the defendant) has a wee driving ban for a few years and that will pass relatively quickly."
Mrs Fegan added the defendant "will be 20 and will be able to drive" and should "just take the punishment today definitely".
The Mayobridge couple had gone out on the day to celebrate their wedding anniversary when they were contacted and told about the accident.
Rushing to Craigavon Area Hospital, a police officer met them and gave them the heartbreaking news that their "wonderful, wonderful" Nicole had sadly passed away.
"We spent our wedding anniversary in the morgue," Mr Fegan said, going on to say how they now "spend pretty much all our time in the graveyard".
He added: "You look at the adverts on the TV, the police coming to the door and giving bad news and you don't think it will ever come to you, but because of other people's carelessness, recklessness and disregard, our child is dead and they're appealing the sentence.
"Our lives are basically over, we just go through the motions until we are dead.
"There's no release and there never will be any release until we are dead."
Nicole was the couple's youngest daughter and like any 12-year-old, "she just loved life, loved everything".
Mr Fegan described how their daughter is "always in our thoughts, 24/7, every second and every hour of every day."
"People think you get over it but you never get over the loss of a child," he said.
"Our wedding anniversary is gone, summer holidays are gone, I'll never get to walk her down the aisle, grandchildren, all of that, but it's also about Nicole's own future, what she would've done, where she would've ended up. We will never know."
Sentencing the 16-year-old, Judge Perry noted they had not been speeding in the dune buggy.
However, he said it was a "bad mistake" to drive the vehicle, which wasn't road worthy and did not have working seat belts, along the "narrow and twisty" Flagstaff Road in Newry "where you couldn't see what was ahead of you."
The schoolchild had initially been charged with causing Nicole's death by dangerous driving.
However, after a day of evidence, Judge Perry convicted them of the lesser offence of causing the death of the 12-year-old passenger by careless driving on November 18 2017.
There was also a conviction of being an unlicensed driver causing death and an uninsured driver causing death.
The judge heard how the teenager, who was just 14 at the time, was driving the American-made beach buggy, which had a top speed of 60mph, to get more petrol for it when it collided with a pick-up truck.
The other driver told the court he braked as hard as he could and pulled over to the verge on the country road, but the collision couldn't be avoided.
Nicole was able to get out of the buggy herself but collapsed at the side of the road and the air ambulance was called.
Tragically, Nicole died on her way to hospital on what was her parents' wedding anniversary.
The judge heard the manual for the beach buggy warned that it was not suitable for the roads, that seat belts and helmets should be worn by the driver and passenger, but neither Nicole nor the driver were wearing helmets.
An engineer's report showed the passenger seat belt where Nicole was sitting was broken.
Imposing the driving ban, Judge Perry warned the teenager that "undoubtedly, your friends will acquire cars - do not under any circumstances be tempted to get behind the wheel of a car."