A day before his death, motorcycling’s Malachi Mitchell-Thomas won the hearts of two Dromore road-racing fans as he posed for a picture with their four-year-old son.
Young Alexander Guiney has accompanied his parents on their annual outing to the North West 200 practically since he was born and it was there that his mum, Samantha, snapped him alongside one of road-racing’s rising stars, little knowing it would be among the last photographs taken of the 20-year-old from Chorley in Lancashire.
During the Supertwins race the next day - Saturday, May 14 - Mitchell-Thomas, riding for the Cookstown BE racing team, crashed his bike at Dhu Varren, Portrush, where he was treated by medical staff, but died from his injuries.
“It’s so sad,” said Samantha. “We met him on the Friday in Coleraine; he was so down to earth, so friendly, a really lovely young fella.
“He was on his way to go, but as soon as we asked for the photograph he came back and sat down and talked to Alexander.
“He was interested in cars and rallying too, and he was definitely a rising star. He was racing in Tandragee and I wasn’t there, but my partner said he’d never seen anything like him.”
If the young racer’s death was a shock, so soon after their having met, it was all the moreso for coming a little under two weeks after the anniversary of another loss, that of Samantha’s cousin, also aged 20, when he was killed in a traffic accident while riding his motorbike in Dromore.
Malachi Mitchell-Thomas’s death re-ignited the debate as to whether motorcycle road-racing should be banned; Samantha, though understanding of the opposing view, says not.
“I can see it from both sides,” she said, “but there’s a lot of other sports that are dangerous too and no-one is forcing anyone to ride the bikes; it’s their own choice, their passion, and even people who have been badly injured just want to get back to it.”
What then if young Alexander - aware of, but too young to fully understand the death of the young man beside him in his newly-framed photograph - grew up to be a motorcycle road-racer?
“I would be worried if he did,” said Samantha, “but if it’s what he wanted to do I couldn’t really stop him.”