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Sunday 18 February 2018

Tributes paid to teen (19) who died in road collision, as boyfriend remains in critical condition

Family's agony over death of Shannon (19) as Ombudsman investigates circumstances of tragedy

Shannon McQuillan and boyfriend Owen McFerran
Shannon McQuillan and boyfriend Owen McFerran

Claire McNeilly

The devastated father of a teenage girl knocked down and killed has described her as a gifted student who had her whole life ahead of her.

Paul McQuillan was speaking after it emerged that the Police Ombudsman is now investigating the accident that left 19-year-old Shannon McQuillan dead and her boyfriend Owen McFerran (21) fighting for his life in hospital.

Ulster University law and criminology student Shannon had earlier been taken by ambulance from Magherafelt, bound for Antrim Hospital, after becoming unresponsive following a slip on ice.

But, after an incident on the way to hospital, police were called and Shannon and Owen, who was in the ambulance with her, got out.

Shortly afterwards, around 3.40am, she was knocked down on the Moneynick Road near Toomebridge.

Speaking to the Belfast Telegraph, Mr McQuillan (56) said the whole family - mum Collette (49), brother Paul (25) and sisters Charlene (20) and Kelly (18) - were devastated by their unimaginable loss.

"We are grieving; Shannon was a bright student who had her whole life in front of her," the former labourer said.

Dunloy woman Ms McQuillan, a former pupil of St Louis Grammar School in Ballymena, died as a result of her injuries, while Mr McFerran, who is from Ballymoney, is critically ill, according to a spokeswoman for Belfast's Royal Victoria Hospital yesterday.

Shannon's older sister Charlene, who works in a nursing home, paid an emotional tribute to her sibling, and revealed that Shannon had wanted to be a solicitor when she finished her studies.

"Shannon was very laid-back and easy-going; she just took everything in her stride. She was bubbly and beautiful," said Charlene.

"We were all so close; none of us can believe it.

"The last thing I said to her before she left on Friday night was: 'Be quiet when you're coming home'."

Charlene recalled how the two of them had spent precious time with each other that Friday before Shannon left the home they all shared to take the bus to Magherafelt.

"I was with her in her room helping her to get ready on Friday evening," Charlene said.

"She wore a pink floral patterned skirt and a black sleeve top with a choker necklace and boots."

Charlene said the police called her mum at 4am on Saturday to say that Shannon had been in an accident.

She added: "We only found out later that she had passed away from her injuries."

John McPoland from the Northern Ireland Ambulance Service (NIAS) said it had been called at 2.06am on January 20 "following reports of a female having fallen on ice and being unresponsive".

"NIAS responded to the call and following treatment at the scene began the journey to transport the patient," he said. "The journey was terminated on the outskirts of Toome.

"NIAS is aware that the patient was subsequently killed following an RTC in the area." Mr McPoland said the Ambulance Service was aware that the PSNI had notified the incident to the Police Ombudsman's Office, adding that NIAS "will also undertake an internal review of the circumstances of this call".

A spokesman for the Police Ombudsman confirmed it had been notified about the fatal collision.

"In line with standard procedure, police contacted the Police Ombudsman's Office, as the man and woman had been in contact with police some time before the collision," he said. "Police Ombudsman investigators are now conducting preliminary enquiries into the nature of that contact."

A police spokeswoman last night said: "PSNI has notified the Police Ombudsman, as is normal, established protocol. While PONI considers the information provided, it would be inappropriate to comment."

North Antrim Sinn Fein MLA Philip McGuigan, a close friend of Shannon's father, demanded clarity over the incident.

"The family of Shannon McQuillan are aware that the Police Ombudsman's office are now investigating the circumstances, in particular the involvement of the PSNI, leading up to her tragic death in the early hours of Saturday morning," he said.

"The family are determined that we get all the facts of what happened on the night and I fully support them in this."

Shannon's funeral is expected to take place at St Joseph's Church in Dunloy on Wednesday.

She is understood to be the second family member to die on the roads, as her uncle Frank was killed in a traffic accident 20 years ago.

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