Grieving relatives of a mother and son who died in last week’s Sheppey Crossing tragedy have paid a moving tribute to the pair.
Deborah Roberts’ oldest son Connor, 17, and her sister Emma Tweed said they don’t think what’s happened has properly hit them yet.
“We keep thinking we’re going to wake up and find out it’s a dream,” said Emma.
Deborah, of Granville Road, Sheerness, was on her way to Medway Maritime Hospital when the accident happened between their car and a white flat-bed van last Tuesday afternoon.
The 42-year-old and her eight-year-old son Marshall died at the scene.
Her younger son, Archer, needed to go to the fracture clinic and she decided to take Marshall as well as she wouldn’t have been back in time to collect him from school
Emma, of Bracken Court, Sittingbourne, said she had heard there had been an accident on the crossing but didn’t think any more about it as she was at home that day with her two children – one has just finished her A-levels and the other had a teacher-training day.
The first she knew about who had been involved was when a police officer knocked on her door.
The 39-year-old said: “Me and Deborah were both breast cancer survivors so she’s fought that and then a tragic thing like this happens – it shows you don’t know what’s round the corner.”
She said her sister was always there for her if there was ever an emergency and her heart was in the right place.
They also have a brother, 38-year-old Christopher Tweed, who lives in Sittingbourne.
“We had our sisterly fall-outs but we were always in each other’s lives,” Emma added.
“She was a fantastic aunty. I couldn’t fault her with how she was with my two children – they adored her and Marshall.”
Deborah had been working at Peacocks in Sheerness for about a year and Connor and Emma said she loved it there, having made some great friends who she had enjoyed going out socially with.
Talking about his younger brother, Connor said Marshall was a big part of Rose Street Primary School in Sheerness, which is where Archer is also a pupil.
Archer also went to King’s College Hospital in London with minor injuries but was released the following day.
Emma said Marshall would always be cracking little jokes and said he was XBox mad and always playing and watching things on his laptop.
Connor said: “Marshall wasn’t exactly the quietest of children.
“He was energetic, but not in an obnoxious way.
“Everyone in the school knew him – he was a little ray of sunshine and everyone was his friend.
“Marshall was Archer’s best friend – they were inseparable.”
They praised their friends and family for the support they have had and Emma also said she’s very proud of her nephew Connor for how he has dealt with it.
“He’s gone from a teenager to a lovely young man in the space of a couple of hours,” she said.
“There’s going to be a big hole but it’s not going to break this family up – it’s going to make us stronger.
“Deborah would be telling us to pull our socks up and get on with it.”
Now the family has vowed to campaign for safety measures on the Sheppey Crossing to prevent further tragedies.
Deborah’s sister Emma Tweed says for as she long as she lives, she will be calling for changes.
It is a sentiment which has been echoed by thousands of Islanders, who signed petitions launched shortly after the accident.
One of them, called Make Sheppey Bridge Safe to Cross, has attracted more than 2,880 signatures.
It calls for speed cameras and also says there needs to be a hard shoulder.
More than 1,700 people have added their name to another petition, called Variable Message Signs before Sheppey Crossing.
It asks for the bridge to be CCTV monitored to allow a control team to immediately be aware of any issues.
The suggestion is this could then be relayed to matrix signs which would warn approaching motorists about broken down cars, wind, fog or anything else.
“There’s going to be a big hole but it’s not going to break this family up – it’s going to make us stronger" - Emma Tweed
There is also a petition aimed at the Department for Transport, which also mentioned the huge crash on bridge in September last year ,and calls for a full safety review to be carried out.
It asks for speed restrictions and cameras, emergency phones and refuges and lighting and more than 400 people have supported it.
Emma said: “As long as I live I’m going to campaign so there are safety measures on that bridge.
“Simple things like SOS boxes or speed cameras or signs – something so people are warned that there’s a vehicle there and slow down so there’s no rush of traffic.
“We want peace of mind that no other family will have to go through what we are going through.”