Wednesday 19 December 2018

Bereaved family members pay emotional tributes to cyclists killed on Irish roads

Neil and (inset) Donna
Neil and (inset) Donna
Allison Bray

Allison Bray

There wasn’t a dry eye in the room when the brother of a cyclist who was killed in a road traffic accident paid an emotional tribute to his beloved sister.

Neil Fox was among the bereaved loved ones of people who lost their lives on our roads attending a special Road Safety Authority (RSA) ceremony in Dublin today ahead the World Day of Remembrance for Road Traffic Victims next Sunday.

Mr Fox, (38), read out a poignant personal reflection on how the tragic death of his sister Donna (30), from Balbriggan, north Dublin, two years ago turned his world upside down.

He is now working full time as a cycling safety campaigner to prevent other families from going through the same heartache.

Family members of the late Donna Fox – sister Leanne, father Peter and brother Neil – outside the Coroner’s Court after the inquest into the cyclist’s death. Photo: Caroline Quinn
Family members of the late Donna Fox – sister Leanne, father Peter and brother Neil – outside the Coroner’s Court after the inquest into the cyclist’s death. Photo: Caroline Quinn

"Two whole years have passed. Before that, gardai were just gardai, bikes were just bikes, standing at pedestrian lights was simply standing at the lights. Not now though," he said.

"What I wouldn’t do to have one more moment with you. To hear your voice and lose myself in that smile that housed such joy and warmth, to be wrapped in your arms one more."

Ms Fox, who worked as a nutritionist at a pharmacy, was cycling to work when she was struck by a lorry at Seville Place and Guild Street on September 16, 2016. She died at the scene.

Mr Fox said his sister did ‘everything right.’ She was travelling in the cycling lane, obeying traffic and wearing a helmet.

Yet the lorry driver, who struck her as he was turning left, didn’t see her, he said.

He said his attendance at the RSA ceremony and his ongoing work campaigning for cycling safety is a means of honouring his sister’s memory.

Patricia Geoghegan fought back tears as she read out a poignant letter from a kindly woman who stayed by her son Andrew’s side and held his hand after he was involved in a head-on collision on the way home from college. Tragically, he also died at the scene.

The handwritten letter from a woman in the UK revealed how the 19-year-old college student spoke to her of his love of boxing and his hero Muhammad Ali as well as his fears that his mother would worry that he wasn’t home.

Eight years on, the pain is still very raw, Ms Geoghegan, (64), told Independent.ie.

She said she had a premonition that something terrible had happened when she was at home in Delvin, Co Westmeath on October 26, 2010 and heard ambulance sirens going by outside.

Minutes later, gardai rang to say that Andrew, who was driving alone on his way back from college, had been struck head-on by a car travelling in the opposite direction which had gone out of control.

The 31-year-old male driver of the car had been speeding. He was subsequently charged with dangerous driving.

But Ms Geoghegan said the pain never goes away.

“My son, my daughter and myself, we live it every day,” she said.

Meanwhile, Liz O’Donnell, Chair of the Road Safety Authority, said that while drink driving and speeding remain the leading cause of death on our roads, the use of mobile phones by both drivers and pedestrians is contributing to the carnage on our roads.

“People have got to cop on,” she told Independent.ie

The number of people who walk out into traffic without looking up from their mobile devices is a growing problem, as well as drivers who continue to use mobile phones while driving.

Although the number of fatal road accidents this year is down two from last year at 129, it is still too many, she said.

“We have made great strides since the 1980s and 1990s,” she said.

However she said we can not be complacent when it comes to road safety.

She also welcomed the new drink driving legislation in which drivers found to be over the legal alcohol limit will have their cars automatically impounded for three months.

“I think it will make a big difference as a deterrent,” she said.

Meanwhile, Moyagh Murdoch, the RSA’s Chief Executive Officer, said she shares the pain of the bereaved families attending the sombre ceremony.

She too, lost her grandmother to a road traffic accident when the 83-year-old was struck by a car as she was on her way home to make tea for the local priest following Mass.

She urged everyone to be reminded of the devastation caused by both serious and fatal road traffic accidents and to reflect on the loss suffered by their loved ones when events take place across the country this Sunday to commemorate more than 24,000 people who have been killed on Irish roads since 1959.

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