Andrew Higgins inquest: Life a disaster since accident, says dad

The inquest was held in Armagh Court House
The inquest was held in Armagh Court House

A teenager died from multiple injuries he sustained in a “dreadful and tragic” road traffic collision, a coroner has ruled.

Coroner Jim Kitson told the inquest at Armagh Court that although 18-year-old Andrew Higgins was “cautious and safety conscious” he looked but simply did not see the Mercedes car which struck him as he crossed the Monaghan Road on December 7 2012.

“It goes without saying this is a most tragic event and one can only begin to understand how this must be impacting on Andrew’s parents, sister and wider family circle, his loss in such tragic circumstances,” said Mr Kitson.

He said he was “satisfied on the balance of probabilities that he did run across the road directly in front of Mr [Mark] McIvor’s car, and I have no doubt that Andrew was not aware when he started his dash across the road that there was a vehicle approaching”.

Speaking after the findings, Andrew’s grieving parents David and Lorraine told of their immense pride in their son who was a year into an engineering apprenticeship and who had successfully attained bronze, silver and gold Duke of Edinburgh awards.

Fighting back tears, Mr Higgins said life since the fatal accident had been “awful, a disaster”.

“He had his whole life ahead of him. You just don’t get over it and we pass that spot every day so it’s like reliving a nightmare,” said Mr Higgins.

Earlier the court heard how Andrew jumped out of his works van close to the lane to his home on the Monaghan Road and tried to cross over behind a lorry which was stationary, trying to turn right.

The teenager only got half way across, however, when he was struck by a Mercedes car being driven by Mark McIvor who was heading home to Cookstown, flinging him into the air and a nearby garden.

Emergency nurse Grainne Connell stopped at the scene and administered first aid until the first paramedic arrived, and described how his pulse was “very very thready” and that he was bleeding heavily from his head and mouth.

Rapid response paramedic Stephen Carlisle recounted how, when he examined Andrew, there appeared to be “cerebral material in his mouth”, and that although an ECG monitor initially showed some electrical activity in his heart, within minutes there was no activity at all.

He told the coroner that with no pulse, no heart activity and an obvious serious and significant head injury, a decision was taken to stop resuscitation attempts.

Mr Higgins testified that he was allowed past a police cordon but that as he arrived at the scene, he saw his son’s body “under a white sheet” and told his wife to stay back so she did not see him.

Describing how Andrew was “very safety conscious”, Mr Higgins told the court that his son always wore a high-visibility reflective vest after an incident when, in the “pitch black” of the rural road, “I almost knocked him down myself”.

In his statement read to the court, he described how the family are still trying to come to terms with Andrew’s tragic death: “Andrew in my head is still coming home. I still check his bedroom and expect him to come home.

“I have not only lost my son but my best friend.”

Senior forensic engineer Gavin Dunn said he had examined the scene when the vehicles and Andrew’s body were still present, estimating that at the point of impact, the Mercedes was travelling a little over 40mph, striking Andrew about half way across its lane.

Mr Kitson read from the post-mortem report which said Andrew sustained multiple skull fractures in the impact as well as a double break to his jaw and leg.

The head injury, along with the jaw fractures causing bleeding which would have blocked his airway, resulted in the teenager’s “fairly rapid death” at the scene of the accident.

A PSNI sergeant spoke to Mr McIvor at the scene, the court heard, with the driver telling the officer he was coming towards the end of the lorry when “this fella just sprinted out”.

“I thought I had missed him but I heard a thump and the windscreen smashed”.

The officer added that although Mr McIvor’s mobile phone was examined, it had been disconnected so could not have been causing a distraction preceding the accident.

Giving evidence to the inquest, and with a warning that he did not have to incriminate himself, Mr McIvor said he had slowed down coming up to the lorry when “Andrew ran straight out in front of me” so he “stood on the brakes” and considered swerving but had nowhere to go.

He was interviewed by police, and although it turned out that he was not insured to drive the family Mercedes, he was not prosecuted for that.

The coroner said he was satisfied that Andrew had died as a result of the multiple injuries he sustained in the impact.