The devastated mate of 15-year-old boy killed during an act of kindness was forced to make a gut-wrenching call to his mother to tell her he had died.
John Keegan, 15, was taken out by a truck on Friday night near a dangerous intersection in central-west NSW.
The year 10 student had been a passenger in his friend’s Toyota ute when it rear-ended a BMW waiting to turn right off the Mitchell Highway near Orange in what was described as a minor crash.
John had rushed to the aid of an elderly couple in the BMW when he was hit and killed by a passing truck travelling in the opposite direction.
His mother Penny Keegan has now recalled the frantic call from her son’s friend about the crash, as well as the mad dash to the scene where police held her back, shielding her from the horrific smash.
Tributes continue to flow for much-loved year 10 student John Keegan, 15, (pictured) killed while coming to the aid of an elderly couple
Describing the call to 7News, Ms Keegan said the tragedy had been a ‘horrible nightmare’.
‘Penny, I’m so so sorry, we’ve had an accident,’ the friend told her.
‘I said, “where are you darling? We’ll come and get you”, just thinking they were bogged or something, I don’t know,’ Ms Keegan said.
‘He said there was a lot of people there… “it’s really bad”.’
Ms Keegan and her husband Jason found out at the hospital an hour later that their eldest son hadn’t made it, only to receive more devastating news.
Her dad rang 20 minutes later to say her mum Jenny, 76, had lost her battle with dementia, having spent all of the last week caring for her.
Ms Keegan remembered her eldest son as cheeky prankster and the ‘dead set coolest kid’ who was loved by everyone, including his teachers.
He also loved playing rugby league and video games with his mates.
‘That was his life – his footy, his mates, he always wanted to do something, go somewhere,’ Ms Keegan said.
John leaves behind two older sisters Xanthe and Bonnie, three younger siblings Eva, Freya and Beau, as well as dozens of heartbroken extended family and friends.
Jenny Kellett (right) died within minutes of her grandson on Friday night (pictured, left, as a toddler)
John’s heartbroken family aren’t surprised his final moments were spent helping others.
‘Despite this being a heartbreaking time for the entire family, we are so proud that the caring qualities he displayed throughout his life were exemplified in his final moments,’ a family statement read.
‘Although too short, we feel truly blessed to have had John touch our lives in such a profound way and leave us with such indelible memories. His absence will be felt by (us), his four sisters, younger brother and his extended family.
‘The close friendships he forged with so many was testament to his fun-loving, loyal nature.’
John’s tragic death has sparked an outpouring of community grief as his school and junior footy clubs led the heartfelt tributes.
John Keegan, 15, (pictured) was tragically hit and killed by a truck as he tried to help the elderly passengers of a BMW hatchback after a minor incident near Orange on Friday night
‘Our thoughts, prayers and love are with the family and friends of Year 10 student, John Keegan, who has been tragically killed in a motor vehicle accident,’ James Sheahan Catholic High posted on Monday.
‘Our school community is devastated by this terrible accident. John will be dearly missed by all in our school community.’
The school has also set up a Facebook page celebrating John’s life, which has been inundated with photos posted by friends and family.
Orange City Rugby Union Club players held a one-minute silence to honour John on Sunday.
‘Yesterday we all woke to some very sad news, with the sudden and tragic passing of one of our own who played in the 16s, John Keegan,’ the club posted.
‘His family have been a part of our club since his father Jason strapped on the boots for us in the late 80’s/90’s.’
John Keegan had been a passenger in his friend’s ute when the 17-year-old driver rear-ended the BMW as the couple waited to turn right at an intersection on Mitchell Highway (pictured)
His junior rugby league team described John as an instrumental team member and great mate to all since his under 6s days.
‘That cheeky smile, his hard working attitude, his toughness on the footy field, his willingness to help around the club, and his genuine friendly nature, will always be remembered by all of us as ‘Our John’,’ the CYMS JRLFC club wrote.
‘How blessed our club has been to have witnessed John grow and develop through the years, not just as a player but also as a champion young man.
‘He asked for so little, but he gave us so much.’
Friends and family have rallied around the Keegans.
A GoFundMe page set up has raised more than $68,000 within three days.
‘John was a respected young man with an infectious personality and love for family, friends and life,’ the GoFundMe states.
The Keegan’s are a loving and respected family, well known for their contributions to our sporting and school communities.
‘In response to the many messages and phone calls we have received requesting donations to the family, we thought we would take it upon ourselves to set up this go fund me to ease the family’s financial and emotional burden with affordability of two funerals.
Orange teen John Keegan (pictured) was remembered by his mum as the ‘dead set coolest kid’
Another friend has set up a online schedule to provide meals and snacks for the Keegans in the coming weeks.
First responders were confronted with an ‘absolutely horrific scene’ on Friday night, as described by NSW Ambulance Inspector Peter Rowlands.
‘You couldn’t sit down and add up the number of people this is going to affect, including the young man’s family,’ he said.
The government was alerted to the danger of the notorious intersection earlier this year, cited in a letter penned by a concerned motorist.
The resident urged Transport for NSW to execute road upgrades after sighting several near-collisions, which led to the installation of new warning signs and repainted road lines, with plans to widen the road within the next year.
On Sunday morning, the Orange City Rugby Union Club players held a one-minute silence to honour the teenager
Orange MP Phil Donato said he wrote four letters to the minister over a six month period.
‘Hopefully this intersection now gets the upgrades locals have been calling for,’ the Shooters, Fishers and Farmers Party deputy leader wrote on Facebook on Monday night.
‘Should not have taken a tragedy to bring this to a head.
‘Thoughts and prayers for all involved and to the first responders who attended.’
John’s 17-year-old friend and the elderly couple were taken to Orange Hospital in a stable condition, where the 71-year-old woman was treated for a fractured pelvis.
The 74-year-old driver of the truck was also taken to hospital for mandatory testing.
A crime scene was initiated with the crash investigation unit to investigate, with a report to be prepared for the coroner.
The teenager, who was a keen rugby league player, has been remembered as a ‘thoughtful and considerate young man’ who will be mourned by the Orange community