Thou­sands back pe­ti­tion from griev­ing girl­friend for up­grade of ‘lethal’ A1 road

Belfast Telegraph - - NEWS - BY STEW­ART ROB­SON

THE girl­friend of a man killed on the A1 said she had “nowhere else to go” af­ter launch­ing a pe­ti­tion to bring for­ward im­prove­ments on the road.

Ciara Sands (25) lost her part­ner Karl Heaney (27) in a crash in May.

The griev­ing Newry woman had planned to travel to Eng­land to live with the GAA player, where he was due to be­gin a teach­ing course.

But tragedy struck when Karl was trav­el­ling home from GAA train­ing on the sec­tion of car­riage­way be­tween Ban­bridge and Dro­more.

“We were to­gether for three­and-a-half years and had planned to move over to Lon­don,” Ciara told the Belfast Tele­graph.

She said Karl usu­ally didn’t want to “jinx” him­self by get­ting too ex­cited about their plans.

“But even he was be­liev­ing in him­self and be­liev­ing that it was what he de­served. He de­served his chance to be a PE teacher,” she added.

The lat­est vic­tims on the road were an 87-year-old man and his 47-year-old step­daugh­ter last month.

Six months on from the tragedy, Ciara said lack of mean­ing­ful com­mu­ni­ca­tion be­tween the De­part­ment for In­fra­struc­ture and Karl’s fam­ily prompted the pe­ti­tion.

More than 6,000 peo­ple have signed it within the space of a few days. A Face­book page: ‘A1: How Many Must Die?’ has also been cre­ated.

Ciara added: “If the road was in the best pos­si­ble shape it could be, we don’t think ac­ci­dents would hap­pen as much as they do.”

Gap junc­tions have been a ma­jor cause of con­cern on the A1. Pro­pos­als from the de­part­ment show that ve­hi­cles would be un­able to make right turns on the road, some­thing Ciara would wel­come.

She be­lieves if these plans had been im­ple­mented al­ready, her Ciara Sands with part­ner Karl Heaney

part­ner’s life could have been saved. “When Karl died, his par­ents were look­ing to speak to some­one about it,” she said.

“They searched on­line who the min­is­ter was for look­ing af- ter the road, but of course at the minute, there’s no­body. The De­part­ment for In­fra­struc­ture have been giv­ing us the same state­ment only re­hashed over and over again. We just want to know why it’s tak­ing so long. We need an­swers, ac­tual an­swers.”

There are fur­ther fears that with le­gal chal­lenges re­gard­ing land own­er­ship, up­grade plans for the A1 could be de­layed fur­ther.

DUP MLA Carla Lock­hart said that it’s pos­si­ble that work could be put back to be­yond 2021.

“This needs to hap­pen ur­gently,” Ms Lock­hart said.

“I’ll be con­tin­u­ing to press the de­part­ment in this re­gard.

“They need to ex­pe­dite sort­ing any land queries that still ex­ist and progress needs to be made.”

Asked whether an Ex­ec­u­tive would help speed up the process, Ms Lock­hart said it was vi­tal there were min­is­ters in place to steer de­part­men­tal di­rec­tion.

Karl’s mother Mon­ica echoed Ciara’s com­ments, adding that it was a cross-bor­der is­sue.

“Every­body talks about that road but we don’t do any­thing about it,” she said.

“I wanted peo­ple to come to­gether and voice their opin­ion about it.”

The De­part­ment for In­fra­struc­ture said: “A sig­nif­i­cant amount of de­vel­op­ment work has al­ready been pro­gressed for A1 Junc­tions Phase 2 road improve­ment scheme.”

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