We miss him every day and want to make sure no-one else suffers

A BALLOON launch is to take place at the Gilbertson Park on Sunday in memory of teenager Stuart Henderson, who was killed a year ago in a car accident. People are invited to come along and write a message on tags which will be attached to balloons bearing the logo “Slow for Stuart” before the release at 2pm. The games hall will be open from 9.30am for those who wish to participate. Donations can also be made to the Stuart Henderson Memorial Fund. Here, his family reflect on the devastation his lost caused them.

ONE year ago today our family woke up and went to work in the morning, a normal, happy family. Little did we know that by around 10 o’clock that morning we would all have received news that was to stop us in our tracks.

Our youngest son, Stuart, had been killed in a terrible car accident where he had been a passenger going to work, happy in the knowledge that he had a fiancée who loved him and looking forward to the baby they were expecting in the new year.

Stuart was the youngest of three and was loved by everyone. He had just started the second year of an electrical engineering apprenticeship which he loved. He had also just bought various items of lighting equipment with which he planned to set up his own business, doing lighting for bands, private parties, etc. He was well respected at work and also within the lighting companies in Shetland with whom he had helped out regularly since around the age of 14.

He had met his fiancée about a year before and was totally in love. They had just got engaged around his 18th birthday and were very excited about the birth of their baby. Although they were both very young we were in no doubt that Stuart and Crystal would succeed in their relationship and in bringing up their baby.

When we got the news that morning we were in total disbelief. How could such a positive and vibrant member of the community, our bairn, be dead. This didn’t happen to people like us. We were too happy.

Believe us, it can happen to anybody and if we don’t do something about it it can happen to you too.

Stuart was killed as a result of speed – nothing else.

How many people do you know who leave for work or a meeting a little bit late and think, oh, five or ten minutes is nothing, just go a little bit faster and we’ll be there on time. That is what happened to Stuart. Two families devastated. Two popular young men gone in an instant. All as a result of trying to get somewhere on time. There is a saying “Better late than dead on time”. How true.

Stuart’s story doesn’t end there. We, his family, are now trying to pick up the pieces and get on with life. No easy task when someone like Stuart leaves them. No shining light to brighten up their day with his fun and wind-ups. No brother to play computer games with or have fun with. No brother to mother and hang around with. No father for the son born three months after his death. No fiancé to be with. No grandson to love. No nephew to turn up for tea. No cousin to speak to. No friend to cheer you up when you feel down.

One year on we are all still trying to cope. Yes, we can go out and we can laugh, we can go to work which is not easy at times (we would much rather stay at home and be with each other).

As parents it is hard to let our remaining two children go their own way, terrified that something might happen to them too. All this is done with a constant lead weight on your chest. We can only hope as the months and years go on it will get easier, although Stuart will never leave our hearts. We just hope that Stuart’s life has not been taken in vain.

Please encourage someone you know to stay at a safe speed and distance when driving. Don’t encourage your young sons and daughters to buy big powerful cars until they have been driving for many years. It doesn’t matter how good a driver they are, they cannot handle a car like that until they have a lot of experience. You never know when a rabbit or a sheep or another car might be around the next corner.

If you are in a car with someone and don’t like the way they are driving, ask them to slow down. If they won’t, get them to stop, and get out. If you have just passed your test and your “friends” ask you to go fast, don’t! Our son was special – so are each and every one of you, so this might be the best decision you have ever made.

Speed is not the only road hazard. We read in The Shetland Times every week that someone has been caught drink driving, or under the influence of drugs, or driving carelessly and without due care and attention. The list goes on and on.

A car can be a lethal weapon if not handled in the correct way. We have all known people who have been killed or injured in a traffic accident due to carelessness and stupidity on the road. All too often the police get the blame for not doing more but they could patrol an area for weeks and never catch anyone doing anything wrong, then the first day they are somewhere else someone has an accident due to carelessness.

We must all learn to take responsibility for our actions. No-one makes us get behind the wheel after a night of partying or makes us decide to “see what speed we can get out of her”. It is us that does it. End of story.

We wanted to do a road safety campaign with the council this year, however they have no plans to do one this year. If it had happened Stuart’s dad wanted to call it the “Slow for Stuart” campaign. We felt that now, one year after his death, and with traffic offences in the newspaper week after week, we could at least appeal to the people of Shetland to go Slow for Stuart.

Stuart Henderson’s family


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