‘They’ll never be forgotten’ – families remember those killed on the roads

‘Every road has a story and those that had to knock on the door to tell someone their loved one has passed away . . . you never forget that’

Elber Twomey has become an advocate for road safety and suicide awareness. Photograph: Michael Mac Sweeney/Cork Courts

Families gathered at a Road Safety Authority event in Dublin on Tuesday to remember those who have died in road collisions.

Many survivors remember where they were when they heard the news of the death of their loved ones, their last conversation with them and the endless unfulfilled dreams and promises.

Elber Twomey’s date of remembrance is July 6th, 2012.

She and her husband Con took their 16-month-old son Oisin to the UK for a 10-day holiday, where tragedy struck in the form of a head-on collision with a suicide driver.

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Twomey – who was five months pregnant with Elber-Marie, due November 1st of that year – is her family’s lone survivor from that day.

She never met Elber-Marie, nor will she get to see her son grow into a young man. Con died May 3rd, 2013, from injuries sustained in the crash.

In the years following the collision, Twomey has become an advocate for road safety and suicide awareness, and started a memorial in her family’s honour that has raised more than €140,000 for charities.

“For some reason, I survived,” she said, seated at Dublin’s Smock Alley Theatre on Tuesday in a ceremony honouring victims of road collisions.

“There isn’t an hour or a minute in any day that you don’t have them in your mind. It’s nice to see them being honoured. They’ll never be forgotten because they should be here.”

Tuesday’s event was organised by the Road Safety Authority (RSA) to raise awareness leading up to the official World Day of Remembrance, which takes place on Sunday, November 18th.

Musician Christy Dignam performed at the ceremony, and was followed by family members of those killed on Irish roads recounting memories of their loved ones.

Neil Fox, whose sister Donna was killed on impact after being struck by a lorry while cycling to work on September 6th, 2016, spoke of the importance of sharing his family’s story to help save future lives.

“It felt strange to get back on the bike afterwards,” said Fox, who lives in Cork and has since become a bicycle safety campaigner.

“As tragic and as awful as this situation is, Donna would want us to go on, and I think all our loved ones would want us to do something positive with it or move on in our life and honour their memory.”

Since the recording of road fatalities began in 1959, 24,255 people have been killed on roads in Ireland, and 80,866 have been seriously injured since recording of serious injuries began in 1977. In 2018 alone, 129 families, friends and communities have lost a loved one to road collisions, up from 127 after two young men lost their lives following a single car crash in Co Mayo on Monday.

“These people are more than statistics,” said Liz O’Donnell, chairperson of the RSA.

“They are fathers, mothers, sisters, brothers, they are friends, colleagues and part of our communities . . . RSA will continue to work tirelessly to make the roads a safer place for all.”

Supt Con O’Donohue of the Garda National Traffic Bureau discussed the under-reported effect that traffic tragedies have on responding officers and emergency personnel.

“It’s something that you never forget,” O’Donohue said. “Every road has a story and those that had to knock on the door to tell someone their loved one has passed away . . . you never forget that. You remember that door every time you drive by. It never leaves you. It will always tug at your heart.”

O’Donohue also explained how the use of new handheld devices – expected to arrive before the end of 2018 – would help gardaí detect uninsured drivers and possibly lead to decreases in traffic accidents.

“The research has shown that the people who are uninsured are the people most likely to drive while disqualified, be untaxed, to commit crimes,” O’Donohue said. “That connection is there. If we get a warning that you are uninsured, it is a gateway to making the roads safer.”

Day of Remembrance events will take place throughout Ireland on Sunday, and a full schedule can be found at www.rsa.ie.