Belfast Telegraph

Veronica Meenan calls for safety measures on road where son aged 13 was fatally injured

Veronica Meenan at the inquest
Veronica Meenan at the inquest
Alan Nesbitt
Reece Meenan
Donna Deeney

By Donna Deeney

The mother of a 13-year-old boy fatally injured as he crossed a dual carriageway in Coleraine has called for pedestrian safety measures to be introduced along the road.

Veronica Meenan, whose son Reece died on November 26, 2016, after he was struck by a car as he crossed the Newbridge Road, said she would hate it if the same thing happened to someone else's family.

Reece Meenan was with a group of friends who were making their way to a fast food outlet in Coleraine on the opposite side of the dual carriageway.

They were crossing all four lanes in between cars when the tragedy happened.

Reece died from a head injury sustained after he was struck by a car being driven by Alan Nesbitt.

He failed to stop at the scene but later contacted the police after he saw a PSNI appeal about the collision on social media.

The Public Prosecution Service accepted there was "no criticism" of the manner of Mr Nesbitt's driving at the time of the tragedy, but imposed the penalty points after he admitted he left the scene.

Ms Meenan said she prayed for peace and healing for the Nesbitt family and for all the children affected by her son's death. She told her son's inquest in Coleraine yesterday that her family were still struggling to cope with the loss of Reece, whom she described as a "very compassionate and loving boy" who enjoyed spending time with his grandparents.

"When you got a hug from Reece, you knew about it," she said.

Ms Meenan said her son was a "quiet, confident and modest boy" who excelled in the worlds of both sport and academia and had won many competitions.

She said that while Reece was beginning to grow up, he "was still a little boy in many ways" who was affectionate, and she showered him with hugs and kisses.

The court heard how Reece followed the Marvel movie series and that when Ms Meenan's partner John was in Spain playing golf, Reece and his mother "binged" on superhero films.

She said they were all very close as a family and that Reece's sister Caitlin still finds it too painful to visit his grave and still "hasn't been able to have a conversation about it, she is in denial".

Ms Meenan said it was totally out of character for her son to cross any road without checking.

She also told the court that she was shocked to hear during the inquest that the speed limit on the dual carriageway was 70mph and was concerned at the lack of pedestrian crossings.

She said she would like to see safety measures in place, saying: "I would hate it if something happened to someone else's family."

Coroner Joe McCrisken said he intended to write to the Permanent Secretary for the Department for Infrastructure and the chief executive of Causeway Coast and Glens Council asking them to review signage of crossing points for pedestrians on the dual carriageway.

Mr McCrisken found that on the balance of probability, the car being driven by Mr Nesbitt would have come off the roundabout and onto the road at least 10 seconds before the fatal collision, and that it would have been visible for those 10 seconds.

He also found that Alan Nesbitt was driving at below the speed limit of 70mph, but "did not have sufficient time to react" to Reece crossing the road.

Mr McCrisken said there were three potential scenarios for Reece and his friend crossing the road while the car was moving toward them.

These were that Reece deliberately waited for a car; that neither boy saw the car - despite it being clearly visible - because they were distracted; or that some obstruction prevented them from having a clear view.

The Coroner said the last two scenarios were the most likely so he found that Reece inadvertently stepped onto the road without realising there was a car.

He added that "notwithstanding the action of the driver" by leaving the scene, he was satisfied "beyond any doubt the driver of the car could not have taken any action that could have prevented the outcome".

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