The night before the crash, schoolboy Michael White jnr was watching RTÉ’s Podge and Rodge Show. His father distinctly remembers him sitting in the armchair, his two long legs stretching over the arm.
He teased him about not telling his teacher what he had been watching. “That was really the last conversation I had with him,” says Michael snr. His son never made it to school.
Newspaper photographs showed the wrecked white Mercedes bus, half on the grass verge of a road near Clara, Co Offaly, its wheels and back axel conspicuously missing. It was a crisp, dry April morning in 2006, two miles from the family home.
“Martina has videotapes in there of the kids when they were young. Now I haven’t looked at them since Michael died … I don’t know whether I ever will,” says Michael snr.
Fifteen-year-old Michael jnr left for school at about 8.10am. Shortly afterwards, a phone call brought news of the bus crash and Michael and Martina, and their 12-year-old daughter Ciara, jumped into the car.
At the scene, they were prevented from getting too close.
“They just told us Michael was trapped under the bus. That’s all we knew at the time,” recalls Michael snr.
“I kept looking down, looking down, looking down and then when I seen the blue screen going up [around it] I knew we were in trouble, you know. We were held back from the scene and, eventually, we did get down to see Michael.”
About a year later, they left their family home. They tried to deal with the loss, Martina went to counselling, Michael tried.
“Every individual deals with things differently; there’s no such thing as this is the right way to do it, you deal with it the best you can yourself.”
Ciara, now almost 30, who stayed in the car on the morning of the crash said it was “undoubtedly the worst day of our lives. As a 12-year-old girl, I lost not only my big brother that day but my first and best friend. It’s the future losses too. The constant what-ifs and wondering where he would be or what he would be doing now.”
He was a studious boy, a quick learner.
“I’d say he would have gone places,” says his father. “He would have made a good life for himself.
“Unfortunately there’s lots of families out there ... we’re all members of the same club that we don’t want to be in.”