Monday 15 July 2019

'I knew it was him before the police came' - mother recalls her dread as she was told of son’s death on rail line

Warning: Some readers may find the following content distressing

Tracey Martin, mother of Shea, at his inquest at Armagh Courthouse yesterday. Photo: Freddie Parkinson
Tracey Martin, mother of Shea, at his inquest at Armagh Courthouse yesterday. Photo: Freddie Parkinson

Gillian Halliday

The mother of a teenager who died after being hit by a train feared the worst when she discovered he was missing on the morning of his death, an inquest has heard.

Shea Martin (19) was fatally injured at the Bells Row railway crossing in Lurgan, Co Armagh - close to where he lived - on May 21 last year.

He was due to celebrate his 20th birthday three days later.

His mother, Tracey Martin, was visibly upset and tearful as she attended an inquest into Shea's death yesterday in Armagh Courthouse, which concluded the teenager had taken his own life.

Coroner Joe McCrisken heard how the night before the tragic incident, Mr Martin had spent the evening in his bedroom.

Hours later, when Ms Martin was getting up for work early, she discovered he had left the family home without telling her.

"His shoes weren't behind the door where they normally were. And he wasn't in his bedroom," she recalled.

Alerting the police, her fears were raised further when she learned the local railway line had been closed "due to an incident".

"I kind of knew it was him," she told Mr McCrisken.

"I knew before the police came to contact me."

The inquest heard that Mr Martin had been the victim of bullying from the age of 14 and was experiencing mental health problems - including depression as well as difficulty sleeping - for which he had been prescribed various medications.

He had also been availing of services provided by a community mental health team.

Mr Martin's mental health issues had been compounded by tinnitus - an ear condition that results in constant 'buzzing' or ringing sounds which are not caused by an external source.

Such was its acute impact on Mr Martin, he had resorted to taking cannabis to alleviate the tinnitus, which has no known cure.

The inquest also heard very distressing details of the last moments of Mr Martin's life - including testimony from the Translink worker stationed at the railway crossing.

Crossing keeper Paul Curran said that when he saw Mr Martin at the crossing, he thought the teenager was waiting to be picked up - a common occurrence at Bells Row, he explained.

As Mr Martin continued to wait, however, Mr Curran recalled he felt uneasy about the situation, phoning a colleague to raise concerns.

He then watched Mr Martin move, prompting him to drop the phone to help the teenager, shouting to warn of an oncoming train.

Rushing to his aid, the railway worker phoned the emergency services - but despite their best efforts, Mr Martin passed away at the scene.

The driver of the train said that in all of his 39 years working on trains, he had never experienced an incident like it until then.

Sam Todd said sadly "there was no hope of the train" stopping in time to avoid the tragedy, due to the short distance involved, adding he could only "blow the horn and pull the emergency brake" in those situations.

A post-mortem report showed that Mr Martin had sustained multiple injuries which were "unsurvivable".

Ruling that the student intended to end his life that day, the coroner offered his condolences to the deceased's family, including his father Liam, who was also in attendance.

Paying tribute to those who had tried to help the teenager, he stressed more needed to be done to tackle the "unacceptably high" suicide death rate in Northern Ireland.

"Everyone needs to pull together to address this growing problem," he said.

Speaking afterwards, Ms Martin also insisted better services are required, stressing her child had been "let down" by the system.

"Shea's my son and I love him and I miss him," she added.

  • If you have been affected by any of the issues raised in this article please contact Samaritans helpline 116 123 or Aware helpline 1800 80 48 48 or Pieta House on 1800 247 247.

Belfast Telegraph

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