If we can save just one life, it’s worth it – that was the plea from the heartbroken family of Brad Williamson, the teenager who died in a motorbike crash last year.
It has been ten months since 14-year-old Brad was thrown from a stolen bike when it collided with a car in the Silverknowes Road smash. Injuries to Brad’s brain were too severe and doctors were unable to save him.
Despite their raw and ongoing grief, his family are desperate to ensure no other youngsters lose their life in that manner.
And yesterday Brad’s aunt Louise Lothian spoke to more than 30 pupils at Craigroyston High School who have been identified as being ‘at risk’ from motorbike misuse.
In an emotional speech, she told teenagers it was vital that they thought about the consequences of their decisions.
Ms Lothian said: “Brad made a split-second choice that day to go on a motorbike and he never came back home.
“It has only been ten months since Brad died – his bedroom still remains the same way he left it on that Friday afternoon, his Xbox will never be played again and his clothes are never to be worn again.
“His mum is broken-hearted and will have to live the rest of her life with that broken heart.
“His little sister is receiving counselling and covers her ears every time she hears a motorbike – she’s only eight.”
She added: “And this is just the tip of the iceberg, so please stay off the bikes – these are not toys.”
Second and third-year students listened in the school assembly hall as Ms Lothian recounted the last time she saw her nephew alive.
“On the day of the accident I was on my way home from work,” she said.
“I met Brad outside school and he was laughing and being a typical cheeky 14-year-old.
“I briefly spoke to Brad for five minutes and I asked him what he was up to.
“He said he was waiting for his mates. I told him to be careful and gave him a hug and he said goodbye.
“I live three minutes away from where I last saw Brad. I got home, took my jacket off and took the dog out into the garden.
“One of my neighbours shouted to me that Brad had had an accident. My first response was ‘it can’t be Brad, I just saw him five minutes ago’. That’s how quickly it happens.”
Despite undergoing emergency surgery at the Sick Kids, Brad died several hours later with his family at his bedside.
The school event, aimed at warning the at-risk teenagers against the hazards of joyriding motorbikes, was organised by Police Scotland, and included representatives from the Scottish Ambulance Service, prison, local youth groups, Spartans FC, Pilton Youth Club and the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service.
Motorbike theft and associated crime has been a significant issue in north Edinburgh over the last few years and has now become a city-wide issue.
After a successful first phase last summer, police have relaunched Operation Soteria in partnership with the city council to target youths stealing bikes and joyriding.
Inspector Steven Sutherland, from Drylaw Police Station, said the problem was so stark in his area, that it “lives and breathe motorbikes”.
He told the pupils: “We are trying to persuade you to tell your friends or tell your family not to get on that motorbike because it’s really, really dangerous.”
Police emphasised peer pressure as a key concern for youngsters involved in bike misuse, and are arranging similar events, as part of Operation Soteria, to try and tackle the problem and prevent youngsters from becoming involved in such behaviour.
“Motorcycle crime has been a significant issue in Edinburgh for a number of years, along with associated disorder,” said chief inspector James Jones.
“Besides the impact it causes people in the area and the disruption it causes in their lives, my key concern is the risk to life itself.”
And Ms Lothian admitted that her family were haunted by guilt as some relatives had been aware before the crash that Brad had got hold of a stolen motorbike – but believed he had got rid of the vehicle.
She said: “In the lead-up to the accident, my son Jordan had heard that he [Brad] had a stolen motorbike.
“My son asked Brad if he had got rid of the motorbike and Brad told him ‘yes’.
“We now know that he went back to that motorbike.
“The long-term impact on my family is not over by a long shot.
“My son Jordan blames himself as he knew about the motorbike and he didn’t stop him going back on it.
“He now has to live with that guilt for the rest of his life.”