'This has brought it all back' says man who lost wife and son to a death driver
A Belfast man who lost his wife and son to a death driver has urged anyone tempted to get involved in car crime to think of the consequences of "their bit of fun" in leaving a family without a loved one.
Kevin Fitzpatrick's wife Dana (28) and eight-year-old son Kevin jnr were killed on the Antrim Road in December 2000 by a speeding driver.
He said the news yesterday morning that a young mother had been killed by a speeding car was shocking.
"This is the first death attributed to death drivers in years and my heart and prayers go out to the victim's family," he said.
"We don't know all the ins and outs of what happened yet, but with me being from north Belfast, living in Ardoyne, just a stone's throw from where this happened, it brought it all home again.
"To me, it seems like yesterday that Dana and Kevin were killed.
"Eighteen years has passed, but as any member of our group, Families Bereaved Through Car Crime, will tell you, it doesn't matter whether it was one year, 10 years or 20 years, our hearts will always be with our loved ones.
"Our thoughts and prayers are with the family of the person who lost their life this week.
"My heart does go out to them. It is a very, very sad thing, that a family is now going to be burying a loved one.
"Only last week it would have been my late wife's birthday. There is not a day that goes by when I don't think of my wife and son. Life does go on, but these events bring it back to me."
Mr Fitzpatrick, along with a number of other parents who lost loved ones in death driving incidents, came together in the early 2000s to form their cross-community support group.
They campaigned for new crimes to be designated to catch the culprits, tougher sentences and a change of terminology from 'joyriders' to 'death drivers'.
They have also spoken to schools and community groups over the last decade to tell young people and adults about the potentially deadly consequences of car crime.
"I am actually a founding member of the group with five other families, four from the west and one from the Shankill, and Tommy Holland as well," he said.
"It was after young Debbie McComb was killed in 2002 on the Springfield Road, we all came together as a collective group.
"All the laws that are now in place are down to the group, and the commitment to tighten the judicial system.
"We thought that the events of today were things of the past.
"We are not totally naive thinking it wasn't going on, but with the new laws in place - aggravated vehicle taking causing death, and allowing yourself to be carried by aggravated vehicle taking - we thought that might deter a lot of young ones.
"The laws are there not only to protect the public, but to protect themselves, that they would be locked up, they would be educated in prison and that when they get out, they won't participate in that type of activity again."
Last night he repeated the group's plea for young people not to get involved in death driving.
"The consequences are that for their bit of fun, is a family's grief and having to bury a loved one. And their own family, having to see them go to prison, and that the person will have the death on their conscience for the rest of their life," he said.
"To this day my own kids are still suffering the effects of that death driver, growing up without a mother and their brother. It is senseless.
"In this day and age I don't see the need for it, there are so many activities for people to do, they do not need to go out and steal vehicles."
Mr Fitzpatrick added: "There are no words can explain what the family will be feeling, I know myself there will be a lot of anger and questions.
"All I can say to them is what someone said to me at the funeral of Dana and Kevin: 'Take each day as it comes, take each situation as it comes, take one thing at a time'."