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Wednesday, 22 October 2014

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Tiredness can kill, Barrow victim’s family warns

THE heartbroken parents and girlfriend of a Barrow teenager who died after falling asleep at the wheel for just seconds are warning others about the dangers caused by tiredness.

Joseph Andrews, known as Joe, was 19 when he died from his injuries after his Vauxhall Corsa collided with a HGV on the A590 at Lindal in August last year.

An inquest established that the cause of the accident was Joe having a microsleep – a sleep lasting just one to 30 seconds where the eyes can stay open and which is a consequence of sleep deprivation.

Joe’s grieving family are approaching the first anniversary of losing him and they are committed to making people aware of the potential hazard of microsleep so other families do not have to go through their anguish.

With the exam period over and teenagers finishing their studies for the summer, Joe’s mum and dad, Julie and Gavin, and his girlfriend Allanah Salton, particularly want young people to take heed of their message.

Joe, of New Leys, Barrow, had been busy the day before the accident, and he had been out fishing and digging for bait in the early hours. He picked Allanah up and they went for a drive and to watch the sunrise together. The accident happened as they were heading back to Barrow at around 5am.

Joe had been driving well under the speed limit at 40mph, as had the HGV driver.

The North West Air Ambulance transported Joe from Furness General Hospital to the Royal Preston Hospital, where he later died.

Mrs Andrews, 49, said: “We are having really good weather this summer and it was good weather when Joseph had his accident.

“Microsleep caused Joseph’s accident. He hadn’t been drinking or taking drugs, he wasn’t speeding, he wasn’t smoking, he wasn’t on his phone, he just had that microsleep and unfortunately his injuries were too bad for him to be saved.

“We want to raise awareness about microsleep, particularly among young people who are finishing college or university for the summer. They stay up all night on social media, gaming, talking to friends and trying to fit so much in.

“We want to explain from the parents’ point of view and warn about the hazard we don’t see, you don’t think of tiredness.

I never wanted to be a ‘what if mother’ but I am. You think if only the car had been five minutes earlier or later Joseph would have rolled into the verge and he would have phoned and said I’ve damaged my car, and it would not have damaged him like it did.

“We’ve lost our only child, we have lost our life. It rips your world apart.

“It was that one little second that changed our lives forever. “All our hopes and dreams have gone with him.”

Mr Andrews, 50, said: “The kids have just had all the pressure lifted off them at the end of their exams. You see them on Facebook up at goodness knows what time and a lot of them are mobile with mopeds and cars. “As parents you drum into your kids about drink and drugs but you don’t think of this microsleep, sleep deprivation. We want them to be aware of this danger.

“It’s happened to all of us. How many times have you nodded off in front of the TV? You can rewind a TV programme, we can’t rewind what happened to Joseph.

“You can’t decide when it happens, your brain shuts down and your eyes can be open.

“This message is for kids who still have the summer in front of them. We don’t want other parents to feel like we do, or girlfriends and boyfriends to feel like Allanah does. One second can change your life.”

Allanah, 17, who was herself injured in the accident, said: “Everyone thinks it won’t happen to you. Just think about everyone involved.

“Some people still think Joe had been speeding but he hadn’t. He was sensible and a good driver.”

The Andrews and Allanah say they are very grateful to their close family and friends who have kept them going, and they have been there for each other.

Remembering Joe, who was a Furness College joinery and carpentry student, Allanah said: “He was unique, everyone knew him, he was a joker. Joe just had a special thing about him. He would speak to anyone and he would make people feel good about themselves.

“We loved being in the car, that car gave us our adventures, and it has given me memories.”

Mrs Andrews said: “Joe lit the place up. He was a good-hearted kid, who had respect for people young and old. He was unique. Everyone enjoyed his company.”

Mr Andrews added: “His only disappointment was not winning the funniest boy award at school, but his friends said it was a fix and he should have won.”

The family said Joe was always helping others, such as following a friend’s car in the snow when they were nervous about driving. They said his friends looked out for one another, always having a designated driver to call upon after a night out.

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