'We were away for the weekend and we got the call' - Parents of beach buggy crash girl Nicole (12) 'in shock'
Nicole Fegan (12) passed away due to her injuries following beach buggy collision
The devastated parents of a 12-year-old Mayobridge girl who lost her life after the beach buggy she was travelling in collided with another vehicle have said she was their "shining light".
Nicole Fegan passed away due to her injuries following the collision between the buggy in which she was a passenger and a black Toyota Hilux on Newry's Flagstaff Road at around 2.50pm on Saturday.
Nicole, a first year pupil at Our Lady's Grammar School in Newry, was travelling on the buggy with a 14-year-old friend, who suffered a broken leg and remains in hospital. The driver of the other vehicle was not injured.
The Northern Ireland Air Ambulance attended the incident.
Yesterday, a solitary bouquet of lilies and a candle marked the scene of the tragedy on the steep, winding and narrow section of rural road.
Speaking from the Fegan family's Mayobridge home yesterday evening, Nicole's grieving mother Margo (49) and father Cathal (49) said their only daughter and youngest child had been the "heart of the house".
"We were down in Dublin for the weekend and left Nicole off at around 11.30am, then we got a phone call at 3.30pm to say that there was an accident and Nicole was fine, but to get down the road," Margo revealed.
"We went to Craigavon Area Hospital but she had passed away, it was too late.
"It was devastating for us and for her 14-year-old brother Jason, who is in a bad way.
"I'm in a state of shock, as any mother would be who has lost her daughter at 12 years of age. We just loved her - everybody loved her.
"She will be coming home tomorrow after the post mortem."
She described her daughter, who was a member of several local sports and music clubs, as the "life and soul of the party" and a girl who "loved life".
"She was brilliant, she was so outgoing and she had so many friends," her mum added.
"She played camogie and football with Mayobridge Camogie and GAA team, she played the tin whistle and the flute, and she did gymnastics at Excel in Newry.
"She was very sporty and outgoing and she lived life to the full. She had her whole life ahead of her.
"It's a shock that someone so young could pass away so quickly. It will be hard for her young friends to understand what has happened.
"Her funeral will be in St Patrick's Church in Mayobridge at 12pm on Wednesday, and we expect a guard of honour from the clubs she was involved in," she added.
Nicole's grief-stricken dad Cathal added: "She was our shining light, the heart of the house."
On Friday night, just hours before the fatal accident, talented Nicole had performed in the South Down Scór na nÓg competition, forming part of an instrumental group as well as singing a solo.
Mayobridge councillor Gillian Fitzpatrick, whose daughter took part in the competition alongside Nicole, described the youngster as a "beautiful girl who smiled with her eyes".
"She was lovely, a real credit to her mum and dad," she said, choking back tears.
"She was in first year at Our Lady's and everyone is just dumbfounded at what has happened, the community is in shock.
"She was the baby of her family and the only girl. It's a terrible shock to lose someone so young."
As a mark of respect, the final of the South Down Scór na nÓg competition, which had been due to take place last night, was postponed for a week.
SDLP councillor Michael Savage, who represents the Flagstaff Road area, said that neighbours had "cradled" the two girls following the crash.
"I would like to praise the efforts of residents who rushed to the scene to raise the alarm, and who cradled the girls following the accident," he said.
"As a father of two young girls myself, this is a heartbreaking tragedy for the family of the girl who lost her life, as well as the child who has been injured. My thoughts and prayers are with both families.
"This is a tight-knit community and they will rally round the families involved. The pain they are going through must be indescribable".
Sinn Fein Newry councillor Liz Kimmins said that Nicole's death had left the community "reeling in deep shock".
She added: "Our deepest sympathy to the family of the young girl who has lost her life in this tragedy. We also hope that the other young girl injured makes a full recovery."
South Down MP Chris Hazzard described Nicole's death as "heartbreaking". He posted: "All of South Down community thinking of her family and friends at this tough time."
Posting on social media, Mayobridge GAA, which opened a book of condolence for Nicole in its social club, stated: "The committee and members of Mayobridge GAC are greatly shocked and deeply saddened by the tragic death of our cherished Scór na nÓg member and camogie, football and handball player Nicole Fegan.
"Mary Queen of the Gael pray for her."
The club also expressed its "sincere and heartfelt sympathy" for Nicole's family.
Down GAA club added: "Our thoughts and prayers are with the Fegan family and the Mayobridge Club".
Our Lady's Grammar School stated: "We are deeply saddened by the tragic death of our J1 pupil, Nicole Fegan. Please keep Nicole's family and friends and the Our Lady's community in your thoughts and prayers at this difficult time. May she rest in peace."
St Patrick's Primary & Nursery School, where Nicole was a past pupil, described her as a "special girl".
They added: "We have memories of her kindness and her willingness to contribute to the life of the school through her musical ability, her sporting talents, her desire to do her best at all times and her beautiful smile."
Tributes also poured in from Clonduff GAC, Glasdrumman GAC, Saval Gaelic Athletic Club, Excel Gymnastics and Mayobridge Band.
PSNI Inspector Kieran Quinn appealed for anyone who witnessed the collision to contact officers in Newry or the Collision Investigation Unit on 101 quoting reference 772 18/11/17.