Inspired by Ledyard teen, bill promoting helmet safety to become law

The late Conor Irwin flashes a thumbs-up with his signature bowtie in this undated photo. (Photo courtesy of the Irwin family)
The late Conor Irwin flashes a thumbs-up with his signature bowtie in this undated photo. (Photo courtesy of the Irwin family)

Ledyard — Last week, Conor Irwin, a Ledyard High School teen who died over a year ago following a skateboarding accident, would have been celebrating his 16th birthday.

But even though he's gone, there can now be a celebration of sorts in his honor.

On Wednesday, as part of a larger transportation bill related to road safety concerns, the senate passed a House-amended bill that included "Conor's Law," which requires children 15 years or younger to wear protective headgear when skateboarding, roller skating or in-line skating.

The bill passed 121 to 27 in the House, and 34 to 1 in the Senate.

On Nov. 25, 2016, while cruising on his longboard, Conor Irwin fell and severely damaged his brain. Ten days later he died at the Connecticut Children's Medical Center in Hartford, a loss that left the Ledyard community reeling.

After his death, though, members of the Ledyard community rallied in a variety of ways to commemorate him. Then in May 2017, the fourth annual Colonel Classic 5K Road Race was dedicated in Conor's memory as well.

All the while another effort to honor Conor ended up carrying his story all the way to the state Capitol.

Holly Robertson Irwin, Conor's mother, spoke of helmet safety at the Colonel Classic, and then continued to spread that message well after the event.

In a previous interview, Irwin said she shared Conor's story any time she saw a child skateboarding without a helmet, and beyond that she began visiting skateshops in Connecticut, Massachusetts and Rhode Island, where she would share the story of Conor's experience and encourage managers and staff to have conversations with their customers about the importance of wearing a helmet.

Eventually word of her efforts reached Hartford, prompting legislators to begin crafting a law and to invite Irwin to speak about the issue at the capitol, where she made an emotional plea to legislators about the importance of the law.

c.clark@theday.com

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