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Yvonne gets her dancing shoes on to help pay for pilgrimage to Lourdes

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Yvonne McCoy with her disabled brother, Stephen

Yvonne McCoy with her disabled brother, Stephen

Yvonne McCoy with her disabled brother, Stephen

The devoted sister of a man left quadriplegic after the Kegworth air disaster has joined a dancing contest to help fund an annual trip to Lourdes.

Yvonne McCoy, whose brother, Stephen, survived the horrific 1989 plane crash, is teaming up with local priest Fr Conor McGrath to hit the dancefloor in Carryduff next week.

Yvonne and Fr McGrath will be one of 12 couples competing for a glitter ball trophy at the charity dance-off, which is organised by the Down and Connor Youth Team.

Every year the diocese raises money to take around 800 sick people to Lourdes - a trip Yvonne and Stephen have been making for the past 30 years.

Money raised through the event will go towards paying for people who cannot afford the pilgrimage.

Yvonne said she was nervous about the contest because she had two left feet.

"I've never danced in my life, and when Fr McGrath asked me, I asked him if he could get someone else," she added.

"He says he wanted me because I have been a big part of the Lourdes trip.

"We've been rehearsing for two-and-a-half hours every Sunday for the past 10 weeks.

"Fr McGrath is very fit and has been really patient with me - I have stood on his toes a number of times during rehearsal.

"I am going to be very nervous next week, especially as I am the oldest person taking part.

"Everyone else is part of the youth group and they range in age from 16 to 25.

"Somehow I don't think we will be taking home the glitter ball trophy."

Yvonne (49) is passionate about supporting the annual fund-raising drive because she has witnessed first-hand over the years how much the trip means to her brother.

Stephen was 16 and Yvonne 20 when he was critically injured in the Kegworth air disaster.

The Boeing 737 he was in crashed on January 8, 1989, after it developed a problem shortly after leaving Heathrow for Belfast International Airport.

The plane came down on the M1 in Leicestershire, just short of East Midlands Airport, where the pilots had tried to make an emergency landing.

Forty-seven of the 126 people on board were killed, and 74 were seriously injured.

Stephen was left quadriplegic after the disaster and spent six months in a coma, with another two-and-a-half years in hospital.

When he was eventually allowed home, Yvonne gave up her job as a nursing auxiliary in an old people's home to look after her brother full-time.

She spends 12 hours a day with him, washing and dressing him, preparing his meals, giving him his medication and overseeing his physiotherapy in a purpose-built exercise room.

Every year for the past 30 years she has accompanied him to Lourdes in a trip made by hundreds of people from Northern Ireland every July.

"There is usually about 10 plane loads go," Yvonne said. "We pay our own way, but there are sick people who can't afford it, which is why the youth group works so hard to raise funds.

"I couldn't speak highly enough of those young people. They give up their own time and their holidays and pay their own way to go to Lourdes every year to push wheelchairs and help wherever they can.

"They are wonderful and I know how much it means to Stephen to go to Lourdes, which is why I want to help other people get there.

"Stephen loves the Masses and the processions and he loves being part of a group. We have great craic.

"He is so well looked after out there. He has great faith and never gives up hoping for a miracle that will allow him to walk again."

The Belfast Telegraph's Ivan Little will join the panel of five judges at the Strictly-style dance-off at Caryduff Parish Hall at 7.30 next Friday.

Tickets are £15 and are available through the Down and Connor Diocese, or from Yvonne by emailing yvonnemccoy69@gmail.com. You can pay at the door on the night

Belfast Telegraph