Northern Ireland

Cookstown hotel disco crush: Parents want answers

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Media caption'He wasn't alone' - Morgan's parents talk about their son's last moments

The parents of one of three teenagers who died in a crush outside a hotel have said serious questions must be asked about the actions of the police.

Jimmy Bradley and Maria Barnard's 17-year-old son, Morgan Barnard, was fatally injured in a queue for a disco at the Greenvale Hotel in Cookstown, County Tyrone.

Lauren Bullock, 17, and 16-year-old Connor Currie also lost their lives.

The PSNI has already referred the case to the Police Ombudsman.

Police previously acknowledged there are questions about why the first officers on the scene withdrew to await support.

The PSNI previously said an investigation was required to fully establish the facts and it was awaiting the outcome of an independent Police Ombudsman's investigation.

Last week, PSNI Chief Constable George Hamilton apologised for comments he made about the PSNI's initial response.

The Greenvale Hotel was hosting a St Patrick's Day disco on the night of 17 March and hundreds of young people were queuing to get in.

Image copyright Euphoria Allstar Cheerleading/Family/Edendork GAC
Image caption The victims were Lauren Bullock, 17, Morgan Barnard, 17, and 16-year-old Connor Currie

In their first sit-down interview since their son's death, Morgan's parents said they wanted to know if his life could have been saved.

"We want to get to the absolute truth, from start to finish, the absolute truth and accountability from whoever that may be," his father told BBC News NI.

"And of course prevention in the future, so this doesn't happen another young person.

"There are questions to be answered after the police arrived, those questions are with the ombudsman who are going to come to a conclusion and not an opinion.

"If those questions don't get to the truth for myself, Maria and Morgan, well then it may well be the case that we need an independent inquiry to get to the truth of why our son died at the Greenvale Hotel that night."

Image caption Maria Barnard and Jimmy Bradley received an apology from the chief constable

Morgan's parents also revealed they were contacted after their son's death by a young man who comforted Morgan as he lay fatally injured.

"We spoke to a young guy who wasn't a friend of Morgan's but who stayed with him until paramedics reached him while he was lying in the ground," Mr Bradley said.

"He called to our house to let us know, he didn't even know Morgan, he just called to let us know he wasn't alone."

'I just knew'

Maria Barnard described her distress when she received a telephone call informing her that something had gone wrong at the hotel and her son might have been hurt.

"I hung up the phone and I was panicking and I rang Craigavon Hospital," she said.

"The nurse asked if he had any distinguishing marks and I said no he's just a normal teenage lad, tall, fair hair.

"She asked if he wore braces and once she said that, I just knew."

The couple said their son "lit up the room" and was adored by his siblings.

Last week, the couple received a public apology from PSNI Chief Constable George Hamilton for comments he made about the PSNI's initial response.

In April, Mr Hamilton had described the actions of the officers who were first on the scene as "brave" but he added there were "questions to answer" as they held back to await support.

Morgan Barnard's family said they had found the chief constable's comments extremely hurtful, and asked him for the private meeting.

After the meeting last Thursday, Mr Hamilton apologised for describing officers' actions as "brave".

"No public commentary by me or any police officer will detract from the independent investigation," he added.

On 26 March, nine days after the teenagers' deaths, the PSNI confirmed Mr Hamilton had referred the case to the Police Ombudsman for "independent scrutiny" of the actions of the first officers on the scene.

They arrived at the hotel grounds shortly after receiving a 999 call on the night of 17 March.

Deputy Chief Constable Stephen Martin said in a previous statement: "Following their initial assessment they made attempts to establish more detail and information about what was happening and subsequently withdrew to await further police support.

"When the first ambulance arrived police moved forward in support of them."

Two men arrested as part of a criminal investigation into the crush remain on bail.

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