A 14-year-old Coleraine boy begged his father for help as he lay trapped on a railway line outside Portrush, an inquest has heard.
The inquest at Coleraine courthouse on Thursday was into the death of Ryan Quinn on 30th January, 2009, on the railway line behind McLaughlin’s Bar at Ballyreagh.
Senior Coroner John Leckey conducted the inquest into the death of Ryan, from Slemish Place in Coleraine, who died after being chased onto the railway line, becoming trapped when his left hand got stuck in the tracks.
Mr Leckey stressed to Ryan’s family that because an inquest was being held into Ryan’s death, this did not mean that the police investigation into his murder had been closed.
Detective Chief Inspector Ian Harrison confirmed this, explaining that two people had been charged over the incident and a file sent to the Public Prosecution Service which directed that there was insufficient evidence to continue with the charges.
However he said that there were still people who, for whatever reason, had information which they had not shared with police.
DCI Harrison said that he was aware that there had been an incident in McLaughlin’s Bar during which Ryan had been the subject of a minor assault “prior to finding himself on the railway”.
DCI Harrison said: “There is no evidence that he was being chased. No witnesses were identified as having observed this or else they are not telling us.
“That is a key issue, that time frame of 15 minutes between 10.40pm until Ryan was struck by the train.”
He appealed for anyone with information to contact the investigating officers or the confidential charity Crimestoppers number.
The inquest in Courtroom No 2 in Coleraine Courthouse heard from a number of witnesses including Ryan’s parents, Lisa Kinnaird and Ivan Quinn.
The Coroner said that the inquest surrounded the tragic death of a 14-year-old boy who died as a result of multiple injuries after being struck by a train.
He said that Ryan’s injuries were consistent with him having his left hand stuck in the railway tracks. He also said that at the time of his death Ryan was three times over the legal drink driving limit for an adult.
Giving evidence to the inquest, Ryan’s mother Lisa Kinnaird told the court that the last time she saw her son was when he called into her workplace to borrow some money from her to go to Portrush as he was going for a meal with his father and his step-brother.
He said that he would ring his mother later and around 6.3pm she received a text saying: “I’m in the bar.”
Lisa Kinnaird said that when Ryan rang her later he didn’t mention anything about any assault. She said that around 11pm, Ryan father’s Ivan Quinn, rang her and asked did she know Ryan was in McLaughlin’s Bar?
She replied that she didn’t know that. She believed that Ryan was with his father so she asked Mr Quinn to send Ryan home.
Mr Quinn later rang to say that he could not get in touch with Ryan initially but then he rang her again and told her that someone had hit Ryan.
He said Ryan had phoned his father and said he had been hit and was being chased up the railway. Lisa Kinnaird then phoned her brother to ask him to take her to Portrush.
Next to give evidence was Ryan’s father Ivan Quinn who took part in the inquest proceedings via videolink from Maghaberry Prison where he is on remand.
The Coroner Mr Leckey said that he appreciated that the night of Ryan’s death must have been “an extremely distressing experience”.
He said the key point of his evidence was that he had received a phone call from Ryan when he was on the railway line.
Ivan Quinn’s statement to the inquest was read to the court.
He recalled how Ryan repeatedly said: “Help me, Daddy. Please help me. Daddy you have to come quick, my knuckles are stuck Daddy.”
Mr Quinn told the court that Ryan was begging him, becoming hysterical, creaming down the phone at him pleading for help.
Mr Leckey asked Ivan Quinn: “You were not that far from the site on the tracks where the body was found?”
Mr Quinn replied: “It’s possible for me to get from Portrush to there in ten minutes, I have timed it about ten times.”
When asked did Ryan give him an explanation about the incident in the pub, he replied no.
He said that his son had phoned him in distress around 10.45pm and said that his nose had been broken.
“His last words were ‘I guess I’m going to have to deal with this myself’ and then the line went dead,” said Mr Quinn.
Mr Quinn also said he was surprised that his son had been drinking and said that he “was not happy about it.”
Coroner Mr Leckey said that he hoped Mr Quinn would be reassured by DCI Harrison’s words that the murder investigation was not closed.
Next to give evidence was Glen Carton who had been at McLaughlin’s Bar on the night in question for Dean Quinn’s birthday party.
He said that when he arrived he saw Ryan Quinn who was upset.
Mr Carton told the inquest that Ryan said he was worried because he thought some boys were going to give him a kicking.
Mr Carton admitted that he was quite drunk but had told Ryan to “stick with me” and not to worry.
He said that he saw Ryan for most of the evening and didn’t notice when he left the main room where the birthday party was. Mr Carton said he couldn’t remember much more about the night except that he got a lift home in a police car and the heard the next morning that Ryan had been killed by a train.
The Coroner asked Mr Carton if he had seen an assault?
He replied: “No.”
He asked if Mr Carton had seen Ryan Quinn drinking? He replied: “No”.
Translink railway conductor Ryan Parks was next to give evidence to the inquest.
He was collecting passenger fares on the 10.50pm Coleraine to Portrush train on the night on question.
He recounted how he heard a loud bang around 11pm. He said that he and the driver, who had brought the train to a halt, put on high visibility vests and went outside on to the track.
He said that he could see a body in the distance on the track but didn’t go towards it.
Mr Parks said that he did not see anybody else near the track. He said that he did not see or hear any unruly behaviour.
The Coroner said that it was a horrific experience and he understood how a person would feel traumatised afterwards.
The driver of the train which hit Ryan also gave evidence at the inquest.
Ian Cairns told how his attention had been drawn towards movement at the side of the tracks and, when his attention returned to the track, he saw someone in the middle of the tracks with his arm raised.
Mr Cairns, who was unable to return for work for five weeks after the incident, said that it was only weeks later when he was making the same journey in the train that he had a flashback which “was so vivid that it gave me goosebumps.”
He told how he remembered see someone at the side of the track, near the hedge. He said that he believed the image of Ryan on the track had been at the forefront of his mind for so long that he had forgotten about the other person until much later.
Mr Leckey told Mr Cairns that he hoped he would be able to put the incident behind him. “I appreciate that is easy to say but the reality may be different,” added the Coroner.
A number of police officers gave evidence of being called to the scene on the night including Sgt David Burns who spoke to Ivan Quinn at the scene.
He said Mr Quinn was upset and believed that the body on the railway track was that of his son Ryan.
He said that Mr Quinn wanted to see his son but was told this was not possible.
Sgt Burns then described how Ivan Quinn said he could prove it was his son, by ringing his mobile phone number.
As he did so, a mobile phone began to ring near the scene of the accident on the railway. Sgt Burns checked the display screen of the phone which read “Dad”.
He said at this point Ivan Quinn broke down.
Later that morning at 4.20am Ivan Quinn identified his son’s body.
The police officer told the court that Mr Quinn had kissed his son and said: “Son, what have you done?”
The inquest also heard that later the next day police received a report that Ivan Quinn had a knife and was walking along the railway line in Portrush. Police stopped and searched Mr Quinn but no knife was found.
He struggled violently with police shouting: “I want to die. Just shoot me”.
Coroner John Leckey said that while assaults on police could never be justified, in the circumstances it could be understood as Mr Quinn had witnessed a horrific scene.
The Coroner also described the “nightmarish situation” which faced Ryan’s family and the emergency services and Translink staff.
He said that it was worrying that Ryan had 219mg of alcohol in in his system - three times the legal limit for an adult.
He said that whoever had supplied Ryan with this alcohol should examine their conscience.
He said that, quite apart from any suggestion of an assault or Ryan being chased, it was easy to understand how an intoxicated 14-year-old on a dark wet night could be disorientated, trip and end up trapped in this “nightmare scenario”.
Mr Leckey concluded that Ryan Quinn’s cause of death was multiple injuries as a result of being struck by a train. He praised the emergency services for their efforts on the night, noted the trauma suffered by the Translink staff and extended his sympathy to Ryan’s family.