'Complete tragedy' - Young man critical after burning crash lost both his mother and father in recent years
The aunt of a young man who was seriously injured in a car accident in Magherafelt has launched a fundraising campaign in aid of her nephew, whose parents are both dead.
Michael McCloskey (20) and friend Jason Bateson were seriously injured in a collision in the Co Derry town on November 13.
Their BMW car crashed into an electricity pole in Kings Street before bursting into flames. The men were pulled from the wreckage by passers-by.
Michael, who remains in a critical condition in the Royal Victoria Hospital in Belfast, sustained major lung damage, a broken neck with spinal cord damage, and various other broken bones and burns, his family said.
Jason, who is from Toomebridge and also in his 20s, is stable and is currently being treated in the hospital's burns unit, the Belfast Trust said.
Mr McCloskey's aunt Linda Murray (49) has now started an online campaign to raise £8,000 to help Michael's family with accommodation close to the hospital and to help pay for his rehabilitation.
His three sisters Ursula, Tracy and Emma have kept a vigil by his bedside since the accident.
The siblings, all in their 20s, have been like mother figures to Michael since the death of their parents, Linda said.
"Tragically, the four of them lost their father Timmy seven years ago," she told the Belfast Telegraph.
"Then three years ago their mother Paula - my sister - fell ill with pneumonia and developed septicaemia and died within 24 hours. It was a complete tragedy.
"At that stage Michael was only 17, so the girls then had to take responsibility for him.
"I am the next of kin from our side of the family, so I look out for them. That's why I started the campaign, because none of us can work at the moment. Never mind the fact that they are always suffering from the fact that they have lost their mother and father.
"Now this has happened and he's their baby brother, who they have mothered for the last three years.
"They're just devastated."
Since his admission to hospital Michael has had two infections, and last Friday had an operation on his lower neck.
"His MRI shows no bleeding on the brain, so thankfully he's very alert that way - thank God," she said. The family are hoping that Michael will soon be able to breathe on his own.
Donations have flooded in since Linda started the fundraising page, and by yesterday afternoon the family had raised more than £5,000. "I'm totally overwhelmed by the response, it's been amazing," she said.
"Everyone has been fantastic and it's been much appreciated by the girls.
"For now, the family are taking it one step at a time.
"We're praying to God that he gets out of the intensive care unit and will reach that milestone - that he's alive and well."
To donate to the appeal, visit justgiving.com and search for 'Linda Murray' in the crowdfunding pages.