The brother of a young man killed in a double-death road crash has said the incident should serve as a lesson for would-be joyriders everywhere.
Thomas Morrow and Gary Withers, both 23, died in what one officer described as a “scene of carnage” when the high-powered stolen vehicle in which they were travelling was involved in a crash.
The inquest into their deaths yesterday heard Mr Morrow was driving the black Subaru Impreza when it slid out of control in dire weather conditions.
Both men had alcohol in their systems, as well as traces of cannabis and diazepam.
Neither were wearing seatbelts. Had they been, the court heard they may well still be alive, since the front interior of the car had remained intact.
But, with nothing to hold them down, both were hurled from the vehicle through its back window.
After the case concluded yesterday, Alan Withers, 42-year-old brother of Gary, said: “They were two boys who tragically didn’t deserve to lose their lives. Ok, the car was taken unlawfully. But nobody deserves to go the way they did.”
He added: “I hope other young people may be reading this in the paper here – that folks take heed. Don’t drive under the influence of drugs and alcohol. Wear your seatbelt.
“I know there is a lot of joyriding around Belfast, and every borough really.
“Young people just need to catch a grip – this ruins lives in the long term.”
He said Gary was particularly missed by his mother Deirdre, who was unable to bring herself to throw his belongings away.
There were emotional scenes in Belfast’s Old Town Hall during the case itself too, with Susan Morrow – the mother of Thomas – finding it hard to take the stand.
The two Larne-based men had been friends for much of their lives, and were unemployed at the time of the crash.
One officer who came across the immediate aftermath said: “As I came out, it was a scene of carnage. There was vehicle debris scattered everywhere.”
Coroner Jim Kitson found that the stolen Subaru had been rounding only a “relatively gentle bend” at the time the accident occurred.
It went into a spin, and because of their lack of seatbelts “they were ejected from the vehicle through the rear window, and sustained devastating injuries”.
Both were dead at the scene at Collin Road, Ballyclare, on November 21, 2009.
At the close of proceedings yesterday, Alan Withers said: “I think today, and probably over the last four years, it was all about getting closure.
“And the two boys can now rest in peace.”
The stolen car was tracked by police, but they lost sight of it some distance before it crashed. After the initial sighting, police had gone after the Subaru, sometimes using their flashing blue lights.
The court was told this did not actually count as a pursuit – something which is meant to be the preserve of specially-trained officers – and instead they were just trying to keep tabs on the car, rather than force it to a stop.
Concluding, the coroner accepted it was not a pursuit, but added this was a “fine line” which “appears to be somewhat obscure”.