A LISBURN teenager is still critically ill in hospital after jumping from a footbridge at Lanyon Place in Belfast at the weekend after being confronted by a group of youths as he went to get the train home after buying his mother a birthday present.

Gary Forbes was shopping in the city with friends and was confronted by the youths on the bridge as he made his way to Central Station to catch the train home at around 9.30pm last Saturday.

A friend of the Forbes family explained: "Gary was in Belfast with three friends, another young man and two girls. He was shopping for a birthday present for his mother and as they were going back to the train station he was assaulted.

"To try to escape Gary jumped over the railing and, not being familiar with the area, he did not realise there was a 20 foot drop to the ground below.

"There seems to be no reason behind this, it was a a tragic chance encounter."

The family friend added that Gary, a former pupil at Dromore High School, was due to travel to Romania in two weeks time to bring much needed funds and supplies to orphanages there.

"He has taken part in these trips for several years now," he explained. "That is the type of young man Gary is.

"Our thoughts and prayers are with Gary and his family," he added.

A spokesperson for the Royal Victoria Hospital, where Gary underwent emergency surgery, said he was still in a "critical" condition.

* Police said three 15-year-old youths arrested in connection with the incident were released on Sunday night pending a report to the Public Prosecution Service. A fourth 15-year-old male who was also arrested was released on bail pending further enquiries.

Police have urged anyone who may have been in the area and who may have seen anything to contact them on 0845 600 8000 or through Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.