Mother-of-three hurt in scrambler bike incident dies

The scene of the incident
The scene of the incident

A mother-of-three who was left hurt after being struck by a scrambler motorbike in a park has died.

Valerie Armstrong, 35, had been hit in Colin Glen Forster Park, west Belfast, at around 6pm on Tuesday evening.

Late on Wednesday night, the PSNI announced that she had died “peacefully, surrounded by her family”.

A 17-year-old boy is due in Belfast Magistrates’ Court on Thursday morning, charged with what police described as “a number of offences”.

A 15-year-old boy who had also been arrested on Tuesday was last night released on police bail, pending further inquiries.

West Belfast SDLP councillor Brian Heading, representing the Collin area of the city, said: “It’s very, very sad that three children have lost a mother, someone who has an important role and influence on children as they’re growing up.”

He said the woman is believed to be from Poleglass on the city’s south-western edge.

He added: “It will be the first objective of the community to make sure the family gets the support it needs.”

Mere hours before news of the victim’s death emerged, the PSNI had issued a statement addressing the use of scrambler bikes in general.

In it, Superintendent Melanie Jones had said: “I want to take this opportunity to remind the public that while the use of such motorised vehicles as a leisure activity can appear to be both exciting and fun, if used inappropriately, can be dangerous and against the law.

“We are aware of concerns in the local community about people riding scramblers and quads recklessly, especially in public parks, and I want to assure the public that we will take action to curb the nuisance and dangers associated with the use of off-road scramblers and quads in public areas.”

She appealed to parents to consider how their children use such vehicles, adding that the incident showed they “can be very dangerous”.

Colin O’Neill, chief executive of the Colin Glen Trust (a charitable body which runs the park, situated on government-owned land), said the use of scramblers in the park is “strictly prohibited”.

“Now, that’s not to say that people don’t disobey that prohibition, and that obviously has occurred on this occasion,” he said, speaking during Wednesday afternoon before news of the death had broken.

He said that the trust has been running a youth project designed to divert people away from anti-social behaviour, and has made “significant inroads” over recent years when it comes to stamping out such activities in the park.

They had also installed fencing in around 2012/13 in areas where scramblers sometimes came in.

“But you have to bear in mind it’s a 240 acre site with numerous access points, and we are a small charity,” he added.

They have one employee who patrols the area, who works from 9am to 5pm.

They are a warden, rather than a security guard.

Asked if the problem has been getting worse in the last couple of years, he said: “No.”

Mr O’Neill suggested that it is hard to see how they could guarantee absolute security “unless you’re looking at building an 8ft-high wall and having CCTV and security patrols on a regular basis”.

As to what measures they may now take after the accident, he replied that this would be considered in due course.

But firstly, he said, “we need to get through the shock of this incident”.

He had stressed that their immediate thoughts were with the family of the victim.