Tuesday 12 November 2019

'I haven't been me since I heard Donna died' - Heartbroken brother of tragic cyclist

Neil and (inset) Donna
Neil and (inset) Donna

Kathy Armstrong and Jason Kennedy

The heartbroken brother of a woman killed in a cycling accident has said the safety of bike users is at a crisis point and urgently needs to be addressed.

Neil Fox (37) was devastated when his younger sister Donna (30) died after she was hit by a truck while cycling in Dublin City Centre on September 6.

Philosophy student Neil paid tribute to his younger sister, saying: "She was probably the most wanted child you could imagine.

"She was the first girl born in the Fox family in nearly 70 years so there was quite a celebration.

"Donna was incredibly outgoing, always doing things, she was outdoorsy and heavily involved in horse-riding.

"She made friends everywhere she went, she set goals for herself and achieved them, she'd do them and do them well."

Donna Fox's brother is backing the Dublin Cycling Campaign
Donna Fox's brother is backing the Dublin Cycling Campaign
Donna with her brother Neil, sister Leanne and cousin Sonya

Neil, who is from Naul, Co Dublin, spoke candidly to Independent.ie about the day Donna passed away.

He said: "We were supposed to meet the next day and I remember I text her asking about meeting up, I didn't think any more of it.

"I was at home and two Gardai knocked on the door, it didn't click at first but when we went into the sitting room I just kind of sensed and asked was it one of my sisters, I haven't been me since that moment.

"I lost my mum and one of my best friends in recent years but this is so different, it was such a violent death.

"It was so surreal... You don't expect to outlive your younger sisters.

"I have very little memory of the funeral, I sat with my sisters Donna and Leanne in the same church five years earlier for our mum's funeral and we never could have imagine we'd be back so soon for Donna.

Anne Marie Ryan and her partner Donna Fox
Anne Marie Ryan and her partner Donna Fox
Donna, and her father Peter with nephew Callum
Donna and her nephew Callum
Donna in a horse race

"Donna was going to get married to her girlfriend Anne Marie and so it's just devastating for her too.
"It's hard on us all, we're all heartbroken but we're doing the best we can."

Read More: 'Protect vulnerable cyclists', pleads dad of woman killed on bike

Donna was cycling to her job at Meagher’s Pharmacy, on Barrow Street, when the tragedy happened just before 11am in the North Dock/East Wall area.

A passing motorist tended to Donna at the scene, but sadly she did not survive, the driver of the truck was uninjured.

Donna's partner of three years Anne Marie Ryan had to formally identify her body and an inquest found she died from multiple traumatic injuries.

Neil said: "It's just over seven months and I suppose it's easier now but more painful too, I was in complete shock, looking back I was much worse than I thought I was.

"After the month's mind and her birthday in October I isolated myself a bit from family and friends.

Donna with her late mother Catherine
Donna with her late mother Catherine

"I didn't cry, I'm still quite un-emotional, it's not normally how I am, I just kept sleeping, I was exhausted all the time and zoned out."

Neil said is backing the proposed Road Traffic (Minimum Passing Distance of Cyclists) Bill 2017, which would target drivers who overtake cyclists too closely.

He also supports the Dublin Cycling Campaign, explaining: "I'd never heard of the them until after Donna died, they got in touch with me after her death and asked if I'd speak at a small rally at the Dail.

"I support one of their campaigns to increase the amount of funding from the Department of Transport to go towards cycling infrastructure and safety measures around Dublin City Centre.

"I can't see why anyone would be against that.

"Obviously to me it's all about my sister but the reason I speak out is that if what happened to Donna can change people's perspective of cyclists it'll be a good thing."

Read More: 'My sister was kindness personified' says Donna's heartbroken brother

He said that cyclists are increasingly at risk in Ireland and more must be done to protect them.

He said: "Donna was the ninth cyclist who died on our roads last year but already by the end of last month five people had been killed cycling on our roads this year.

Leanne, Catherine, Donna and Neil
Leanne, Catherine, Donna and Neil

"It's an urgent thing and needs to be adressed."

Neil added that he would like to see Minister for Transport Shane Ross to do more to help promote safety for cyclists.

He said: "It's been interesting that I haven't heard from the Minister Ross, I haven't contacted him but this is in his remit.

"I know that many people in the cycling community feel he's kind of ignoring their plight.

"Could he have saved my sister's life? No, I'm not saying that for a second and I don't attribute blame to any politician, nobody would have wanted this to happen to Donna.

"I would call on the Minister to get more involved, maybe meet some of the various cycling groups, I look forward to meeting him in the next month or so as I will be speaking to various TDs about the human side of losing someone in a cycling accident and how it could possibly be prevented in the future."

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