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Liam Neeson gifts late nephew's wheelchair to Kegworth survivor


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Stephen McCoy and his sister Yvonne with his specially adapted wheelchair

Stephen McCoy and his sister Yvonne with his specially adapted wheelchair

Liam McBurney/RAZORPIX

Liam Neeson

Liam Neeson

Actor's nephew Ronan Sexton died in 2019

Actor's nephew Ronan Sexton died in 2019

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Stephen McCoy and his sister Yvonne with his specially adapted wheelchair

An electric wheelchair which Hollywood star Liam Neeson bought for his nephew before his death has brought a new lease of life for a severely disabled man in Co Antrim.

And the A-lister from Ballymena has expressed his happiness that the power wheelchair has helped Stephen McCoy, who was left brain-damaged and a paraplegic after the Kegworth air disaster exactly 32 years ago last Thursday.

The actor's nephew Ronan Sexton (right) died in 2019, five years after he fell 20 feet from a Brighton phone box during a night out with friends.

And his wheelchair was later passed on to Stephen whose family say it has been an immeasurable boost for him.

"I've spoken to Liam's family to pass on our thanks and a video of my brother using the chair," said Stephen's sister Yvonne.

"And I got a message to say that Liam was pleased that the wheelchair was being put to good use."

Junior boxing champion Stephen was only 16 at the time of the accident which happened in January 1989 when a Boeing 737 developed an engine problem shortly after leaving Heathrow for Belfast International Airport, crashing onto the M1 in Leicestershire, killing 47 people and injuring 47 other passengers.

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Liam Neeson

Liam Neeson

Liam Neeson

Doctors feared Stephen, who was in a coma for six months, wouldn't survive and they were about to switch off his life-support machine when a nurse noticed a twitch in his big toe and the medics changed their minds.

Stephen continued to astound the medical experts and spent a total of three years in hospital in England before he was allowed to travel home.

Yvonne gave up her job as an auxiliary nurse in an old people's home to care for Stephen in a specially-designed home at Toomebridge funded by a £1.42m compensation award.

Neeson's nephew Ronan sustained serious head injuries in June 2014 after his fall and following the accident, the Oscar-nominated star of Schindler's List bought a futuristic electric wheelchair for him.

But in January 2019 Ronan (35) - who was the youngest child of the actor's sister Bernadette Sexton - died surrounded by his family in Cushendall.

His death came nine years after Liam's wife of 15 years, actress Natasha Richardson, died after suffering a fatal head injury during a family skiing trip to Canada.

After Ronan's passing, the motorised wheelchair was offered to Stephen and Yvonne said: "Obviously we all felt desperately sorry for Ronan's family. It was a terrible loss.

"But the wheelchair has been absolutely fantastic for Stephen. It has been modified to meet his particular needs. "

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Actor's nephew Ronan Sexton died in 2019

Actor's nephew Ronan Sexton died in 2019

Actor's nephew Ronan Sexton died in 2019

Coincidentally, Stephen and Neeson have a sporting link.

"They were both members of the All Saints boxing club in Ballymena," said Yvonne, who got in touch with Bernadette Sexton - her former French teacher at school - to say thank you for the wheelchair.

"I sent a bunch of flowers and Bernadette told me on the phone that she was happy that Stephen was getting the benefit of the wheelchair.

"She also sent a video of Stephen using the chair to Liam, so that was nice.

"Bernadette said Ronan had been a warrior and so was Stephen," added Yvonne, who said her family had been devastated by the death of their father Idris last year.

Mr McCoy was a tireless fundraiser for a number of charities including the Kevin Bell Repatriation Trust which last month marked the return of the 1,000th body of an Irish person who has died abroad.

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