Grieving family and friends of three victims of fatal car crashes have reacted furiously to suggestions that sentimental football memorabilia should be removed from the sites of their deaths.
And the heartbroken loved ones of Steven Robinson, Shaun Smith and David Jones have vowed to do all they can to keep the soccer-related tributes at two trees on the approach to Amble.
As part of the fight, two e-petitions have been created to stop the items from being taken down.
It follows comments made by Coun Jeff Watson at this month’s Amble Town Council meeting, as well as in a submission to community magazine The Ambler.
Coun Watson, who is ward member for Amble West with Warkworth, said that residents and motorists had expressed concerns to him about the football memorabilia which were placed at the scenes of the ‘two tragic and very regrettable accidents’.
He said that there was a feeling among some people that the items were distracting to drivers and perhaps it was time for the respective families to consider removing it and ‘commemorate their loved ones in some other, more appropriate way’.
He added that he recognised it was a very sensitive issue.
But the comments have sparked uproar and the families and friends of the victims are ‘angry and upset’.
Driver Steven Robinson and passenger Shaun Smith, both from Amble and aged 19, were killed in a crash on The Wynd in May 2006.
Currently, two Newcastle United shirts, personalised with the words ‘Smithy 1’ are hanging at the tree which the car hit.
Dean James Barry was the front-seat passenger in the vehicle, but miraculously survived the ordeal. Now, the 27-year-old from the town, who suffered horrific injuries in the incident, has teamed up with mother-of-three Ami Casson to launch an e-petition against the items being removed.
He said: “I know for a fact that, if the shirts were removed, it would upset a lot of people and I think they would be replaced anyway.
“It is a place where I go and think about the lads and it wouldn’t feel the same if the shirts were removed. People should be able to show their respects however they like.”
Ami, 27, from Amble, added: “Steven and Shaun are still very close to my heart and we don’t want any of the shirts to be taken down.”
The e-petition, entitled save the memories, is waiting for approval on www.gov.uk and is not available to sign yet.
Father-of-one David Jones was killed on the same stretch of road in November 2013 after his car collided with a tree.
The 38-year-old, originally from Manchester but living in Amble, was married to Michelle and the couple had a son, Jack, who was 15 months old at the time of the tragedy.
A Manchester United home shirt, as well as a black and red scarf, have been left at the site, among other tributes.
Michelle, 30, said she was really upset by suggestions that the Red Devils gear should be taken down.
She said: “It is a tribute to Dave who absolutely loved Manchester United. People say it reminds them of him and I would be really offended if they had to be removed. Nobody should have their tributes taken away.”
The anger has been felt more than 150 miles away in Manchester. David’s mother Marion, 60, said: “That tree is like a tombstone for us because David does not have a grave. We don’t want the tree to be stripped. We’d be angry if these items were removed.
“It is extremely important that the Man Utd memorabilia stays there, because he was Man Utd mad and was raising Jack to be a fan.”
Marion has a framed letter of condolence from Manchester United, signed by then-boss David Moyes, which was sent in the wake of the fatal crash. She said that her and husband Eric will be visiting the tree in April to honour what would have been their son’s 40th birthday.
David’s brother Mark, 31, rubbished the notion that the football items on both trees were a hazard to drivers. He said: “If anything, they slow drivers down and make them more cautious because it is a reminder of what happened.”
The family’s e-petition can be found by searching Davy Jones memories on the website ipetitions.com
The comments also sparked a massive debate on our Facebook page and the majority of readers were against the removal idea.
Of the many comments against, Emma Barnes wrote: ‘This is disgusting. If this helps them along the journey of grief who are people to say take them away?’
However, there were some who believed that the memorabilia should be removed.
Commenting on Facebook, Maria HD wrote: ‘What happened was tragic and awful but this sort of long-term tribute isn’t the answer.
‘If the families feel the need, a bench or flowerbed would be more fitting. Even a small plaque on the tree if they really feel that’s appropriate.’
In a letter to the Gazette, one reader, who did not want to be named, said: ‘I agree it’s time they went, on road-safety grounds alone.’