THE parents of a 17-year-old Dalriada student, who was tragically killed in a road traffic collision in 2009, have bravely faced tv cameras in a bid to prevent more road deaths.
Paul and Diane McCracken appeared on high profile tv advertisements in recent days in an emotional appeal for road users to take care.
Their daughter Shannan, who was a student at Dalriada School, died on her way home from a night out with friends at the cinema.
Shannan was alone in her car which left the Bann Road near Ballymoney and struck a tree around midnight on July 24, 2009.
Shannan was a month short of her 18th birthday and had passed her driving test just six months earlier.
Hundreds of mourners attended her funeral in First Presbyterian Church in Ballymoney.
In one of the tv adverts, Paul and Diane, tell of their devastation when their daughter crashed.
They said: “When Shannan died part of us died with her ... you never think that this is going to happen to you. Young people need to know that they are not invincible.”
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It can happen to them. You need to be ready for the unexpected.”
Shannan was described as “a beautiful, musical, bright popular girl” - an A Level student at Dalriada - who wanted to become a teacher.
Her whole future was wiped out in a split second.
Paul and Diane McCracken are devastated by the loss of their daughter and say every day is difficult.
They will never see her go to university, walk her down the aisle when she gets married, or watch her with her own children.
They said: “You never, in a million years, think that this is going to happen to you. We are doing this (advert) to prevent some other family going through what we do. Young people need to know that they are not invincible. It can happen to them. You need to be ready for the unexpected.”
In the tv advert, Diane McCracken says to the camera: “Shannan was just beautiful. She was really popular, always smiling, and she couldn’t wait to get her licence.”
In the ad, Paul McCracken says: “She was six months into her R plates. She’d been to the cinema.”
Diane says: “We arrived at the scene, I couldn’t even breathe. It was horrendous.”
Paul says: “The hardest thing for me was standing down at our gate and she home in that hearse.”
Turning to the cause of the accident, Paul tells tv viewers: “She was going too fast, there was no doubt about that and there was a lot of activity on her phone right up to the crash.”
An emotional Diane tells the public: “We will live with the aftermath forever. If you’re in the car on your own and you think that the only person that’s going to be affected is you - think again.”
Back in 2009, Paul McCracken said he, his wife and son were struggling to come to terms with the tragedy.
He said at the time: “She was our princess, just a perfect person. Shannan was always the life and soul in our family and among her friends.
“Everyone loved her ... she was always very friendly and outgoing. It’s so hard to believe what has happened, because she just loved life and lived for every moment.
“Friends and family have been coming to the house, but we’re just shocked, totally devastated, there’s nothing else I can say. Words cannot describe what we are going through.”
At the time it was revealed Shannan, was learning to play the bagpipes with a local band and worked part-time as a waitress in an hotel along with her brother Ross.
Last week, Environment Minister Alex Attwood launched the new road safety campaigns which feature four true-life accounts of road tragedy.
Minister Attwood said: “Brave individuals and families have chosen to tell their heartbreaking story in the hope that they can prevent other people suffering in the same way. I am enormously grateful that they have told of their experience – I hope it is widely heard.
“They are ordinary people, like you and me. Their emotion is raw and very real. They each tell how their lives have been altered, in various tragic circumstances, and how road collisions have changed their lives forever.
“The over-whelming consequences of road collisions have far-reaching effects on family, relatives, friends, work colleagues and whole communities.”
Mr Attwood urged young drivers especially to heed these messages. He said: “These stories are the stories behind the headlines. They don’t want other families to suffer tragically changed lives after losing a loved one on our roads - nor others to endure such life-changing injuries.”
The “Crashed Lives” television adverts will initially run to the end of February.
59 people died on Northern Ireland’s roads in 2011. In 2010, 55 people died. Up until 2010, the number of road deaths had never dropped below 100.
A total of 14,522 people have lost their lives on NI roads since records began in 1931 and 73,450 have suffered serious injuries since serious injuries were first recorded in 1971. (The serious injuries figure does not include 2011 as this will not be confirmed until mid-2012 although it is expected to be several hundred).