A community was reeling yesterday after a road traffic collision left a five-year-old boy dead.
Conor O’Neill was killed in north Belfast, prompting an outpouring of sympathy for his family.
Shortly after 9am, it was reported to police that a car and a bicycle had been involved in the incident in the Rosehead area of the city, in the Ardoyne district.
The boy, a pupil at Holy Cross Boys’ Primary School, was taken to a nearby hospital but died as a result of his injuries.
The school’s principal, Kevin McArevey, told the News Letter that “the entire community has been devastated by the news”, describing the tragic youngster as a “very special child”.
He had been due to go on a trip to Corrymeela, a cross-community retreat, yesterday morning.
Tributes flooded in from across the political spectrum, with the DUP and Sinn Fein among those offering their sympathies.
SDLP North Belfast MLA Alban Maginness said the ripples from his death would be felt throughout his extended family.
Mr McArevey, who himself attended the scene of the accident, said the boy had a “radiant smile” capable of lighting up the room.
Speaking yesterday, he said: “He was a great kid, a lovely child, a very sociable young lad and a very special child. He will be sorely missed.
“He was due to go on a cross-community trip to Corrymeela this morning.
“We are putting on support arrangements for pupils because this can have long-term effects for pupils.”
He added: “I expect the community to rally around the family now.”
When the incident occurred before 9am, he said the boy had been playing on his bicycle and his mother had been calling him in for school.
Mr Maginness said that he understands the driver of the vehicle is “in bits” as a result of the death.
The family was well-established in the area, he said, adding: “It’s a large, extended family, so it will have ripples right across.
“It’s just heartbreaking for everybody,” he said.
“Everybody is very sympathetic to the family. Also, you have to take into account the effect this will have on other children in the area and going to school.”
He added that the SDLP will meet with Roads Service in coming days “with a view to securing traffic calming measures that will make the area safer for pedestrians, children and road users”.
“It is imperative that Roads Service acts quickly on these requests before another tragedy befalls this close-knit community,” he said.
North Belfast DUP MP Nigel Dodds issued a statement which said: “It was with great sadness that I learned of this morning’s tragic event, which has sent shockwaves through the entire community.
“My thoughts and prayers are with the family of the young boy at this very difficult time.”
Newly-elected Alliance councillor Nuala McAllister said: “One death on the roads is one too many. We must do all that is possible to improve road safety. I would urge all road users to be vigilant of others, especially young children.”
Sinn Fein councillor Gerry McCabe, who knows the family, said: “This community is shocked.
“Any road accident is tragic but given the age of this young boy it is even more so.
“The family is well-known and respected in the area and this tragedy will be felt by many people throughout this community.
“Our thoughts and prayers are with the family of this young boy at this time.”
Investigating officers are keen to hear from witnesses and can be contacted on the non-emergency number 101.