The heartbroken family of a 26-year-old Duleek motorcyclist who died following a road traffic collision at Balrath Cross near Kells last month are giving their full support to a campaign to make the road safer so another family doesn’t have to suffer the loss of a loved one. Mr Bell’s motorbike collided with a tractor at the dangerous junction on the N52 and he later passed away in hospital from injuries sustained in the crash.
Parents Lorraine and Ivan Bell don’t want their son’s death to be in vain and have lent their support to the Balrath Resident’s Association who are calling for traffic calming measures on the road.
“I felt angry and very annoyed for these people because they have been trying for years to get something done and nobody is listening. We have a mobile home in Mullingar and travel on that road every weekend from March until the end of October,” says Lorraine, adding
“I just felt so sorry for the residents when I read that they have been campaigning for so long. They have little kids and they can’t let them outside. I just don’t want anyone else to ever have to go through what we are going through.
“If it just saves one more life it’s worth it. If you can put a personal face to the authorities of what people go through because of the road being so dangerous it might make a difference. If something had been done Chris would still be here.”
The family in happier times
Christopher was travelling on his motorbike to his parents mobile home park in Mullingar with his partner of five years, Carina, following behind in her car when the tragic accident occurred as she explains.
“I came around the corner and there was man signalling to slow down and I thought there might have been cows around the corner, but then I saw the distinct purple colour of Chris’s bike, I saw the bike then I saw Chris. I just abandoned the car and ran over to him and stayed with him. Two nurses happened to stop and they tried to stop the bleeding, then they took me away because his heart stopped."
Lorraine describes the moment she got the heart-wrenching news: “I knew from when we got the phone call it wasn’t good. We got to the hospital three minutes before the ambulance got there and it was the longest three minutes of my life because we could hear the sirens and could see the team of doctors waiting. I just knew that he wasn’t going to make it.”
The Duleek man worked as an engineer in Wintertech Systems as well as being a corporal in the army reserves and he had a jam-packed schedule according to dad Ivan.
“Chris was like a best friend as well as a son because I worked with him every day. There weren’t enough hours in the week for him. He joined the reserves at 17 and most weekends he was doing something with them. I don't know how he fitted everything in. As so many people said Christopher had so little time but any time he had to give to you it was 100% dedicated to you. If his phone rang in the middle of it, he'd put it away.”
Christopher with sisters Nicole and Katie
"He was interested in motorbikes most of his life, he got his first bike at 16. He was an excellent motorbike rider. He had the top of the range gear, boots, helmet you name it. Anything he did it had to be done by the book, no matter what it was, it had to be done right. Carina and he travelled 3000 km across Europe on motorbikes in 2017.
"It was inevitable that he was going to be involved in motorcycling, we are a whole family of petrol heads."
Heartbroken mum Lorraine says Christopher was always a caring and loving son.
“He was always a lovely kid, from a baby he would throw his arms around your neck and say I love you.”
“He had a loving nature. If he was going off to the UK with work he’d give me a hug and say I love you pops in front of his mates,” adds Ivan.
Lorraine, Ivan and Carina light up when they talk about Christopher and although they are grieving, they're finding solace in the many wonderful memories made throughout the years.
Carina with Christopher pictured in his prized army reserve attire
Carina laughs as she remembers how an attempt from Chris to treat her to a 'practical present' for her birthday rather than a romantic one backfired on the army corporal.
"I was living in Sweden at the time and he flew over to see me. He wasn't known for getting the most romantic type gifts so he decided that he was going to buy me something practical. He went into a wool shop that ended up being a high-end handcraft boutique.
"He picked up a scarf and brought it to the counter and I think he nearly fell over when the shop assistant told him the price but he was too embarrassed to say anything so I got the scarf."
She also commented that his undomesticated tendencies at home didn't stretch to his career as an army reserve as he often spent hours ensuring his uniform was in pristine condition,
"He could spend an hour polishing his shoes and ironing his uniform," she fondly recalls, adding, "the lines had to be perfect. I remember one night I went out with my friends at 10 pm and he was polishing his boots and when I came back at 3 am. He had competitions with his friends to see who had the shiniest boots."
Lorraine says her son was something of a whiskey connoisseur and never forgave her for using a lower quality Scottish whiskey in his beloved Irish Coffee one Christmas.
"Christopher loved Christmas, no matter where he was he had to come home for it," says Ivan, adding, "The big thing with me and him was our Irish coffees at Christmas.
"One year I bought a big bottle of Scottish whiskey and sure I didn't know the difference between whiskeys for coffee," comments Lorraine, well he was disgusted, he said you can't make Irish whiskeys with Scottish whiskey that's terrible," she laughs.
“Some days to us it’s not real, I still think I’ll see him walking through the door. We are grateful because we would not have gotten to say goodbye to him only for the nurses that stopped and helped Chris stay alive. We got about an hour and a half with him before they turned his life support off.”
Lorraine and Ivan admit that together with daughters Katie and Nicole they are just taking things one day at a time.
“You have a hollowness inside in your soul. You try to push that to one side and say to yourself think of the good times but some days it’s harder than others. I’d hate anyone else to go through this. If something good can come out of this it just means Chris dying will have meant something.
“I just miss him so much all of the time,” says Carina, adding, “it didn’t matter what time he’d come home, he’d always wake me up to say goodnight and it’s just things like that you miss. He was such an amazing guy.”
It’s a very different world without their son according to Lorraine.
“We are in a fog. We are completely different people now. You can’t fix that, you can paper over the cracks a little bit. I read something recently that struck a chord. The French translation of I miss you is ‘you are missing from me’ and that’s how it will always be for us.”