THE nine-year-old boy who died in a road accident near Ballymena on Friday night has been described as a "very special child."

The headmaster of Lislagan Primary where Patrick Gault was a pupil said they would never recover from the tragedy.

Mr. Wesley Edgar took the unusual step of opening the school on Sunday to bring Patrick's classmates and parents to talk about the incident, which has stunned the local community.

"I felt this might be helpful in the circumstances," Mr. Edgar explained.

Patrick was a back seat passenger in his parents' BMW when it was involved in a collision with a white box lorry near the Shanksbridge Road junction between Ballymena and Antrim around 8,30 p.m.

Jonathan Gault, a well-known and respected businessman in Ballymoney, and his wife, Wendy, had been on their way to Belfast at the time.

They were both conveyed to hospital and at the time of writing Mr. Gault was undergoing tests. Mrs. Gault is staying at her husband's bed-side.

The driver in the other vehicle and his two passengers were not hurt, but one person was arrested and subsequently released on police bail.

News of the tragedy has caused deep regret.

Mr. Edgar said teachers, pupils, parents were absolutely devastated.

He told the Times: "Every time you hear a tragedy such as this people tend to talk in praise of a child and use stock phrases, but I can say them and absolutely mean what I say.

"Patrick was a lovely child in every sense of the word. The sort of child you just loved to teach.

"He brought so much to the school. There was no one who didn't know him; no one who didn't like him at the school.

"Academically he was very gifted; personality wise he was very warm-hearted. He had a kind warm sense of humour and I couldn't speak highly enough of him.

"The school has lost a lovely boy and it is absolutely devastating.

"The grief in this school shows, in its own way, what a good person Patrick was. He really did make an impact on everyone.

Last Friday morning, Patrick was presented with a Principal's certificate for his good work.

Later, Mr. Edgar asked pupils how they would remember their little friend and one said: "We will always remember him on St. Patrick's Day because that's when he died."

He brought so much to the school. There was no one who didn't know him; no one who didn't like him amongst all the children at the school.

The Mayor, Councillor Cecil Cosuley said Patrick was an only child and the news had caused deep shock.

"This is a sad day. The family are very well known and respected in the community and it is a terrible loss."

North Antrim MLA, Mervyn Storey, also expressed his condolences to the family.

He said that as a parent of children of a similar age he could only begin to imagine the grief the family were going through at this time.