Northern Ireland news

Co Down teenager who survived devastating quad accident last year passes away

Portaferry teenager Ellie McDonnell (16), who survived a devastating quad accident last year, passed away at the weekend
Marie Louise McConville

THE funeral a Co Down teenage showjumper who died just over a year after she survived a devastating quad accident takes place tomorrow "escorted by her beloved horses", her family has said.

Ellie McDonnell, who was 16 and from Portaferry, died at the weekend.

The teenager was involved in a quad accident at her home last July. Ellie had been preparing to represent Northern Ireland at a showjumping competition in Wales at the time.

She was riding her quad on her family's farm when she collided with a jeep driven by her mother at a blind corner on the lane leading to their home.

She sustained a catalogue of injuries including broken bones and severe swelling to the brain.

Due to the critical state of her injuries, the Air Ambulance was dispatched to the scene and took the teenager to the Royal Victoria Hospital in Belfast.

The Down High pupil spent eight weeks in hospital, two of which in a medically-induced coma and her family was told to prepare for the worst as the extent of her injuries left doctors unsure of whether she would ever be able to walk or talk again.

However, Ellie went on to make a remarkable recovery and undertook fundraising for the Air Ambulance as a thank you for the help they had given her.

It is understood that she had undergone more surgery recently.

Ellie's mother Mary told of the family's shock as she paid tribute to her daughter on Facebook.

She said Ellie was a "child that won the nation's hearts and her young friends have shared their heart breaking sadness openly.

"Ellie over the last 14 months pushed herself harder than any human being, she fought hard to live, she fought hard to get back to riding her ponies," she said.

"Ellie never showed pain and the accident caused her a lot pain with the numerous surgeries on her brain, the patching up of her skull each time and the shaving of her beautiful hair Yet she smiled like an angel and carried on.

"Ellie was recovering well and was days away from getting back on her ponies, she was so excited and counting the hours literally".

Mrs McDonnell said the family was in "shock and cannot accept she isn't here".

Tributes poured in across Facebook yesterday.

Down High School also paid tribute on Facebook, saying her presence in school would "be missed terribly by her teachers and many friends".

"We will treasure the precious memories we have of Ellie, as an exceptional student, a star of the school's equestrian team but mostly as a young person with remarkable kindness, courage and generosity of spirit".

The Northern Area committee of the Irish Pony Society added: “We send our heartfelt condolences and sincerest sympathy to her parents Peter and Mary and brother Max at this extremely difficult time.”

Another message of condolence from Ballygalget GAC says: “Ballygalget GAC Committee are saddened to hear of the untimely death of Ellie McDonnell, sister of our juvenile player Max.

“Our condolences are extended to Ellie's family and friends at this very difficult time.

"Ar dheis Dé go raibh a hanam”.

In a notice the family said Ellie's funeral would take place tomorrow leaving her home at 11am “escorted by her beloved horses, calling at her stables and then via the Deerpark Road, Ardkeen to St Patrick's Church, Ballyphillip Road, Portaferry for a service at 12 noon."

While the funeral will observe social distancing adds the service can be viewed live on the parish webcam

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