Monday, July 21, 2008

'I'll never forgive the driver – that is Finlay's job...'

'I'll never forgive the driver – that is Finlay's job...'

AS Zoe Martin regained consciousness, she reached out, frantically trying to find her son's hand, which she had been holding tightly moments earlier.

Lying at the side of the road and unable to move due to the extent of her injuries, she opened her eyes.

Blinded by the sunlight, she had no idea where she was or what had happened.

Her thoughts immediately turned to her son, Finlay, and she called out his name, desperate for reassurance that he was all right.

“All I could feel was gravel on my hands and I knew that something had happened,” she said.

“I remember trying to find Finlay with my hand and I remember saying 'Where is my little boy?'

“He should have been there and I could not feel him.”

The mother and son had been walking along Old Road, in Heage, on their way to pick up Finlay's older sister, Millie, from school, when they were hit by a runaway trailer.

It had broken away from a car and careered down the road, crushing them.

Zoe drifted in and out of consciousness for seven days at Nottingham's Queen's Medical Centre. Only after that did she discover that she had six broken vertebrae, a fractured skull and her leg had been broken in two places.

She also found out her son was dead.

“I remember asking again and again where Finlay was,” she said.

“They kept telling me he was in resuscitation but I could tell by their eyes.”

A nurse finally told Zoe that her son did not make it.

“I don't remember what happened after that. I think I passed out.”

The day of the accident – July 19, 2007 – had started like any other.

“That morning, Finlay and I were dancing around and singing and then we had a cuddle on the sofa,” said Zoe, 32.

“He was really excited because it was Millie's last day at school and he was looking forward to playing with her every day.”

When it was time to collect Millie from Heage Primary School, Zoe and Finlay left their house in Old Road and crossed over to the other side.

As the pair walked along the pavement, they were unaware a trailer being towed by a car had broken free and was careering towards them.

“I don't remember being hit,” said Zoe.

“Apparently, it hit us from behind.

“I don't know how long it had been rolling down the road for.”

Zoe said the next thing she remembered was coming round lying in the road, shouting and frantically trying to feel for Finlay's hand.

“A lady who was holding my head just kept saying “Don't move, don't move”,” she said.

“I heard a man shout 'Has anyone called an ambulance?' and then I don't remember much after that.”

Zoe came round briefly in the ambulance and was told Finlay had been airlifted to hospital.

The next thing she remembered was waking up in Nottingham's Queen's Medical Centre as her head was being shaved so doctors could fit a metal brace contraption to restrict her movement.

Zoe remained in intensive care for a week with Finlay's father Wayne, 33, by her side.

She was then moved to the spinal unit, where she stayed for another two weeks.

Once released, Zoe had to keep the brace on for three months and use a wheelchair and crutches to get about.

She has been left with a metal bar in her leg and suffers pain in her back and neck, which has meant she is unable to return to work as a hairdresser.

After the accident, the family found it too painful to return to the house and the scene of the accident so they moved in with Wayne's father, Paul, at his home in Farnsfield, Newark.

Wayne, a police officer, was the first to return to the family home a few days after the tragedy, to find Finlay's things still all over the floor.

“Every time I found something, I just broke down,” he said.

“All of a sudden, I would start crying and it would go on for five or 10 minutes.

“I thought I was going to go mad and I would never stop crying.”

The family finally found the strength to move back in October.

Wayne said: “It was hard but, at the same time, we had four years of amazing memories of Finlay there, too, that we did not want to forget. I would go through all this hurt again and again to have the time with Finlay once more.”

And it is those memories of Finlay, and the love of their six-year-old daughter, Millie, that has kept the couple strong.

Finlay and Millie were so close that people often mistook them as twins, although they were born 14 months apart.

Zoe said: “She talks about him all the time and mentions him every day without fail.

“They were best friends and really close.”

Wayne said: “Millie was really shy but Finlay was the complete opposite – a real showman.

“He made everyone laugh without even trying. He was a fun little character.

“He was just a really happy kid.

“He was also really loving and sensitive.

“He was always telling Zoe he loved her and that she looked beautiful – he was doing my job, really.”

Wayne and Zoe have taken comfort in their belief that Finlay has gone to a better place.

Zoe said: “We know that Finlay will never leave our side.

“It alters your view of life. We all believe that there is something out there and that Finlay is in a better place.”

Wayne added: “We want to get across that there is a light at the end of the tunnel.”

On the day of the accident, the trailer was being towed by a car driven by David Robins.

At Southern Derbyshire Magistrates' Court earlier this year, Robins, and the owner of the trailer, Michael Buckley, were each given a £500 fine and their driving licences endorsed with three penalty points. Both men were also ordered to pay £45 costs.

Buckley pleaded guilty to permitting the use of the vehicle and Robins admitted using a vehicle with defective brakes and using a vehicle when a secondary coupling device was not fitted.

Zoe, said: “I couldn't believe that he only got a £500 fine. He knew that trailer was not safe, he was not being a responsible adult.”

Wayne said: “You have to not allow yourself to get consumed by anger. I'll never forgive the driver, that is Finlay's job.”

On Saturday at 3pm, a year after the crash, Zoe, Wayne and Millie went to Heage Primary School to present the Finlay Martin Memorial Cup.

The trophy, which will be an annual award, was presented to young village footballers Ted Clark, seven, and Joe Brumby, nine, who have performed well over the year.

The audience at the event also clapped for 30 seconds in memory of Finlay.

Wayne said: “It was really nice. Obviously, it was quite emotional but a really positive way to remember Finlay.”

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