The police ombudsman is investigating the circumstances of a road collision that cost a young woman her life and left her boyfriend in a critical condition in hospital.
Shannon McQuillan, a 19-year-old law student from the village of Dunloy in Co Antrim, died after being struck by a van near Toomebridge during the early hours of Saturday.
Owen McFerran, a 21-year-old from Ballymoney who was with her on Saturday morning, is fighting for his life in hospital following the collision, a Belfast Trust spokesperson said.
Shannon McQuillan’s friends and family have expressed shock and sadness following her sudden death.
Her sister, Kelly McQuillan, posted a short message on social media, which read simply: “Love you forever sis! Fly high.”
Sinn Fein MLA Philip McGuigan lives in the Dunloy area where Shannon grew up and is a friend of her father.
He said: “Shannon was a lovely girl. She was beautiful and she was quiet.
“She had worked really hard at school, had done her A-levels and got on to study law at university.
“She was a young girl at 19 who had a very bright future ahead of her.”
Ms McQuillan was struck by the van at a service station on the busy Moneynick Road at around 3.40am on Saturday, police say.
North Antrim MLA Mr McGuigan added: “The family of Shannon McQuillan are aware that the police ombudsman’s office are now investigatng the circumstances, in particular the involvement of the PSNI, leading up to her tragic death in the early hours of Saturday morning.
“The family are determined that we get all the facts of what happened on the night and I fully support them in this endeavour.
“Obviously the additional information has compounded an already grief-stricken family.”
Ms McQuillan, who had been studying for a degree in law and criminology at Ulster University, had been enjoying a night out in Magherafelt in the hours before the collision.
A spokesperson for the Northern Ireland Ambulance Service (NIAS) said they had responded to “reports of a female having fallen on ice and being unresponsive” in Magherafelt, shortly after 2pm on Saturday.
“NIAS responded to the call and following treatment at the scene began the journey to transport the patient,” the spokesperson continued.
“The journey was terminated on the outskirts of Toome.
“NIAS is aware that the patient was subsequently killed following an RTC in the area.
“NIAS understands that the PSNI has notified the incident to the police ombudsman’s office in line with their own procedures and as such it would be inappropriate to provide any further comment on the incident.
“NIAS will also undertake an internal review of the circumstances of this call. We are aware that a young life has been lost and that a family is grieving this loss.”
The spokesperson added: “The service would like to extend its sympathies to her family and friends on their tragic loss.”
A police spokesperson said: “PSNI has notified the police ombudsman, as is normal, established protocol. While PONI (Police Ombudsman’s Office Northern Ireland) considers the information provided, it would be inappropriate to comment.
“Our thoughts at this time are with the McQuillan family and all of those affected by this tragic incident.”
Mr McGuigan added: “We are also thinking and praying for the young fella from Ballymoney who is injured and for his family.”
Mr McFerran’s family, meanwhile, have been praying for his recovery.
Writing on Facebook, his cousin Tanya Cushnehan said: “We ask that you hold our cousin Owen McFerran in your prayers, who is currently in hospital putting up a good fight.
“We have faith in your strength that you will make it through. Our thoughts and prayers also go out to his girlfriend’s family.”
A friend of Shannon McQuillan posted a tribute on Facebook, writing: “Yesterday I woke up to find out some horrible news. One of my best pals has been taken away from us far too soon.
“I moved back to Scotland six years ago and she was the only one I really stayed in contact with. We had even planned for her to come over here again this year.
“It’s honestly such a shock you really didn’t deserve this.”