'Do more people have to die?' Family seeks road improvements one year on from horror crash

Kimberly O'Connor's mother is pleading for speed bumps on 'death trap' road in Knocknaheeny, where her 16-year-old daughter Kimberly was killed 
'Do more people have to die?' Family seeks road improvements one year on from horror crash

Kimberly O'Connor was just 16 when she was killed in a horror car crash outside her home.

One year after the death of 16-year-old Kimberly O'Connor in a horror crash outside her home, her family are renewing their plea to authorities to make Cork City's roads safer. 

Kimberly's mum Jennifer wants to see traffic calming measures urgently implemented on Harbour View Road, which she says is “a death trap". 

“She died right outside the house.

"And about two weeks after Kimberly, there was another crash there. No one was killed but it was bad enough. That gives me a fear. When I hear speeding cars pass or a bang outside the door, I jump out of my skin with fright.

"We've asked for speed bumps on the road but nothing's happened. 

"The road stretches down as far as Apple computers so there’s a good long stretch if anyone wants to speed. And the road narrows by our house.

I can’t understand why nothing’s being done about it. Do more people have to die?"

Photos of a smiling girl line the walls of Jennifer Haynes’ Cork home, the last visual reminders of her beloved daughter, who was tragically killed in a nightmare car crash just outside their house.

Kimberly O’Connor was “the perfect child”. Kind, talented, "always smiling" and focused on realising her dreams from a young age.

She was just 16 when her promising life abruptly ended on a wet night last February 19, when the car in which she was a front-seat passenger spun out of control and smashed into a concrete wall just 50 yards from her home on Harbour View Road in Knocknaheeny.

The year since Kimberly’s death has brought her grieving mum little relief. If anything, the pain is getting worse as the shock wears off and the reality of life without her daughter kicks in.

“16 years of age to just be taken. It’s just the saddest thing,” Ms Haynes
said, her voice breaking.

“I don’t think I’ll ever find comfort. It’s just too devastating. The trauma of that night will live with me forever. 

This hole in your heart has been ripped out. Nothing in life will ever make up for that. Nothing will ever ease it because your child is gone."

Kimberly was her "baby doll", her "superstar", who was perfect in every way and filled their home with song.

She encouraged those around her to pursue their dreams and at just 16, was already focused on achieving her own, having carefully mapped out her route to London’s theatres and broadway stages via hard work and a planned college course at CIT after school. 

“She had great dreams and plans ahead. And she had so much potential.

“She was talented at everything. She was a beautiful singer, acting was her life, she was unreal at art. A beautiful, bubbly person. She was kind, caring. There’s not one thing that you could ever say wrong about Kimberly because she was just perfect.

“A beautiful, bubbly child, always smiling. 

"She was always positive, always wanted to promote positivity. Her favourite quote, as she got older, was ‘positive vibes’. She just wanted to see the good in everything."

Remembering that night, Ms Haynes said: "She was very happy going out the door that night. She was always happy.

“It was mid-term so they were all gathering together on a Wednesday night. She said ‘See you later mam, love you'."

Kimberly's mum, sisters and baby brother.
Kimberly's mum, sisters and baby brother.

Kimberly, a transition year student at Terence MacSwiney Community College, had just returned from volunteering in India with the Hope Foundation weeks before her death. She worked with disadvantaged children there, painting local orphanages and planned to return after she turned 18.

She had also been chosen to participate in the Cooperation Ireland exchange programme, visiting Belfast and engaging in cross-border projects. 

"She was a dream child," Ms Haynes said. "She could do anything she put her hands to. 

Kimberly's two older sisters have also been rocked by the tragedy. While her baby brother, who was just four weeks old when she died, was too young to remember how much Kimberly adored him.

"She’d have been a brilliant big sister," Jennifer said.

"He looks up at her pictures in the front room and would smile and talk away. So I believe she is connected with him.

"He’s a jolly little child and has the exact same, infectious smile as her.  He’s the little thing keeping me alive. The baby was my lifesaver."

Ms Haynes said lockdown hasn't impacted her hugely because her "life has ended anyway in a sense" but she said it could be making grief harder for many bereaved people to deal with in isolation.

Her belief in heaven has helped her to cope, she said.

"My life ended when hers did, I’ve only been existing since. It keeps me going to know that I’ll see her again. I’m not afraid to die now."

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