Belfast Telegraph

Tears as Debbie Whyte's mum thanks woman for trying to save crash girl

By Donna Deeney

A "heroic" woman who administered first aid to a 14-year-old girl as she lay dying on a Co Fermanagh road broke down in tears as she was told she had the "unending gratitude of the girl's family".

Debbie Whyte (14) and Nathan Gault (15) were killed after they were struck by a Renault Megane being driven by Yvonne Seaman as they walked home with their friend Wayne Manley along the Croaghrim Road at Florencecourt on November 27, 2008.

Nathan died at the scene, his body discovered in his aunt's garden a short time after the collision. Debbie died in hospital the following day, while Wayne was uninjured.

Arlene McIntyre told Coroner Suzanne Anderson how she arrived at the scene of the crash moments after it occurred. She saw Debbie, who was her second cousin, lying on the ground and Wayne in a very distressed state attempting to phone the emergency services.

Ms McIntyre said Wayne told her Nathan had "run off" because he wasn't at the scene. She described how she took her jacket off, put it over Debbie, then she and Nathan's aunt began to administer first aid. "We did it together," she told the court.

She also said the driver of the car spoke to her to ask: "Is there a pulse?"

Resuscitation was continued until the ambulance arrived and transferred Debbie to hospital.

Ms McIntyre said she then went back home to change her clothes, which were "covered in blood".

Addressing Ms McIntyre, barrister for the Whyte family Plunkett Nugent described her efforts to save Debbie as "heroic" and said Mrs (Ann) Whyte wanted, through him, to publicly "convey deep an unending gratitude to you for your efforts on that night".

Nathan's aunt Ruth Cutler, who was the first person to arrive at the scene, told the court she was alerted by "terrible screaming" from the road outside her house.

She had been expecting Nathan at her home so, when Wayne said Nathan had run off, she assumed he had gone into her house.

She said her priority was Debbie, and it was only later after Debbie had been taken to hospital that she realised Nathan was missing.

Ms Cutler said "the penny dropped" about Nathan, so she and other neighbours began to look for him with his mother Joanne, who had arrived at the scene.

She said: "If I had known Nathan was lying out there, there is no way I could have done what I did for Debbie."

Ms Cutler told the court her sister, along with a number of others - including Ms Seaman and her sister Margaret and another of her friends - were in the kitchen of her home when a policeman arrived and told Nathan's mother that he "had been found and that he was dead".

Ms Cutler took issue with a statement accredited to her which was read out in court, but which she said wasn't complete. She said she felt the policeman who took her statement, which was taken a year after the deaths of the two children, made her feel "uncomfortable" because he "kept interrupting" her and saying "that's not relevant".

When asked if her statement should have been longer, Ms Cutler replied: "One hundred percent. I don't think I got continuing to the end because he just wasn't interested."

Police procedures regarding mobile phones connected to the events surrounding the crash were the focus of evidence given by a communication device expert, Thomas Marryat.

It emerged guidelines and proper procedures for police forces for seizing mobile phones while investigating collisions which were in place in 2008 had not been followed.

Mr Marryat explained the proper procedure is for mobile phones to be seized at the earliest opportunity and immediately "isolated from the network", which can be done by simply switching the phone off.

This is to prevent any "accidental or deliberate" data from being deleted from the device.

It also prevents incoming data such as texts or calls from "overwriting data" such as deleted calls or texts which will then be impossible to retrieve unless a copy of the mobile phone activity is obtained from the service provider.

Ms Seaman had been asked by counsel for the coroner if she had deleted calls to her sister she admitted making just prior to the crash for which no record could be found - which she denied.

Ms Seaman's phone, which was the only phone seized as part of this investigation, was taken six hours after the crash and was not isolated from the network for 60 days.

Her phone received five incoming calls after police seized it, which Mr Marryat said could have overwritten deleted data including texts and phone calls.

The inquest continues.

Belfast Telegraph

Daily News Headlines Newsletter

Today's news headlines, directly to your inbox.

Popular

From Belfast Telegraph