Two walk­ers die in Mournes falls

Ex-RUC Chief Su­per­in­ten­dent and Cam­lough fa­ther per­ish in moun­tains

Belfast Telegraph - - FRONT PAGE - BY DAVID YOUNG AND LEONA O’NEILL

TRIB­UTES have been paid to two men who fell to their deaths in sep­a­rate ac­ci­dents in the Mourne Moun­tains yes­ter­day.

One of the vic­tims was named as for­mer RUC Chief Su­per­in­ten­dent Rob­bie Robin­son, who had served as a Dis­trict Com­man­der in Down.

The sec­ond man who died has been named lo­cally as Sean Byrne, who is be­lieved to be a fa­ther from Cam­lough in south Ar­magh.

Mr Robin­son, a for­mer po­lice­man who was in his 60s, lived in Ban­bridge with his wife Bar­bara and their son.

Ul­ster Union­ist coun­cil­lor Ian Burns said Mr Robin­son will be “sorely missed”.

Sinn Fein MLA Conor Mur­phy said there was “ut­ter shock” in Cam­lough after the tragic news about Mr Byrne.

A third man was also res­cued from the moun­tains with a sus­pected bro­ken an­kle.

A FOR­MER se­nior po­lice­man was one of two men who lost their lives in sep­a­rate ac­ci­dents in the Mourne Moun­tains yes­ter­day.

The deaths took place on Slieve Commedagh and on Wee Bin­nian around mid­day, the PSNI said.

One of the vic­tims was named last night as for­mer RUC Chief Su­per­in­ten­dent Rob­bie Robin­son, who had served as a Dis­trict Com­man­der in Co Down.

The sec­ond man who died has been named lo­cally as Sean Byrne, who is be­lieved to be a fa­ther from Cam­lough in south Ar­magh.

A third man was in­jured in an an­other in­ci­dent in the moun­tains.

PSNI In­spec­tor Frances McCul­lough said: “Po­lice re­ceived a re­quest for as­sis­tance after a male was re­ported to have fallen while walk­ing on Wee Bin­nian shortly be­fore mid­day and re­ceived a fur­ther re­quest for as­sis­tance after a male was re­ported to have fallen while walk­ing on Slieve Commedagh shortly be­fore 1pm.

“Po­lice and other emer­gency ser­vices re­sponded, but un­for­tu­nately both men died at the scene.

“A third male was also res­cued from the moun­tains with a sus­pected bro­ken an­kle fol­low­ing a fall close to the Sad­dle at around 2.30pm.”

Both men died after fall­ing from crags, ac­cord­ing to the Mourne Moun­tain Res­cue team,

Res­cue he­li­copter 116 flew from Dublin to help in the emer­gency op­er­a­tion, but be­cause of the poor weather con­di­tions was un­able to as­sist.

Twenty-one Mourne Moun­tain Res­cue Team mem­bers were in­volved in the op­er­a­tion.

Mr Robin­son, who was in his 60s, lived in Ban­bridge with his wife and their son.

Ul­ster Union­ist coun­cil­lor Ian Burns said he will be “sorely missed”.

“I knew Rob­bie very well,” he said.

“He lived in Ban­bridge with his wife Bar­bara and his fam­ily.

“He was an ab­so­lute gen­tle­man. He was al­ways so pleas­ant, al­ways with a smile on his face.

“I would have met him ev­ery Sun­day morn­ing at church and he al­ways had a wave and a smile for you, and many a morn­ing we would have had a laugh to­gether.

“Rob­bie was al­ways very ac­tive.

“He would have been walk­ing in the moun­tains quite a bit and would have been a keen cy­clist.

“He was very fit and very much an out­door per­son. He was a big part of our church, Holy Trin­ity Church, Sea­p­atrick.

“He co-or­di­nated our church fete ev­ery year. Our rec­tor told us all of the news on Sun­day night.

“Ev­ery­one is in deep shock. Peo­ple haven’t had a chance to take it in.

“Rob­bie was an ab­so­lute gen­tle­man who was al­ways smil­ing and had time for ev­ery­one.

“We have a big church com­mu­nity, and ev­ery­one gets on so well with ev­ery­one, and Rob­bie was right at the heart of that.

“He will be very badly missed by ev­ery­one who knew him. For­mer South Down SDLP MP Mar­garet Ritchie said she had known Mr Robin­son well while he was Down Dis­trict Com­man­der.

“It’s dread­ful to hear of his death in such tragic cir­cum­stances,” she said.

“He was very well thought of, very jovial. It’s very sad.”

Newry and Ar­magh Sinn Fein MLA Conor Mur­phy told the Ar­magh web­site that the news a Cam­lough man was one of those who had lost their lives in the Mournes had re­sulted in “ut­ter shock through­out the close-knit com­mu­nity”.

Con­di­tions on the moun­tains were de­scribed yes­ter­day as “hor­ren­dous” by walk­ers who were on the slopes.

Natalie Ir­win (41) from Dro­more told the Belfast Tele­graph she, her daugh­ter and a friend had to turn back from their walk on Slieve Bin­nian yes­ter­day be­cause of the weather. “We had just gone up for ex­er­cise, but the weather closed in on us re­ally quickly,” she said.

“The wind was so strong it al­most blew me off my feet.

“We had to hide un­der rocks from the gusts. We knew we had to turn back.

“We weren’t as well equipped as we should have been, we just had gym gear on.”

Natalie was with daugh­ter Holly and friend An­drea.

“There were hun­dreds of peo­ple on Slieve Bin­nian alone, it was very busy,” she said.

“Some of them even had lit­tle chil­dren with them, oth­ers were run­ning up the track, oth­ers run­ning down. Vis­i­bil­ity was very poor, and it got dark very sud­denly around 1pm.

“We had to run back be­cause it was just so dan­ger­ous.”

Christo­pher Ro­gan was on the Mournes yes­ter­day morn­ing with friends An­drew McCul­lough and Keith and Svenja Gadd.

He said weather con­di­tions were wors­en­ing as the group de­scended. “We were there at 9am on Sun­day morn­ing and the fog was very heavy and rain was light,” he said.

“But as we reached a sum­mit the con­di­tions started to clear.

“So we had lunch at the top of a moun­tain around 11am. At that stage we could see clearly around us.

“But then we started de­scend­ing, and at around 12 noon the winds re­ally started pick­ing up.

“At one stage the wind was so strong my friend was able to lean into it. The winds re­ally did pick up at that stage but there was still loads of peo­ple and fam­i­lies head­ing up as we were leav­ing.”

Pub­lic rep­re­sen­ta­tives of­fered their con­do­lences to the fam­i­lies of the vic­tims.

Sinn Fein MP Chris Haz­zard said: “The tragic news that two men died to­day while walk­ing in the Mournes will have shocked the en­tire lo­cal com­mu­nity.

“My thoughts and con­do­lences are with the fam­ily and friends of those who trag­i­cally died in these in­ci­dents in the Mournes to­day.”

Ul­ster Union­ist Alan Lewis said: “My thoughts and prayers are with the fam­i­lies of the two men who have trag­i­cally died fol­low­ing sep­a­rate in­ci­dents on the Mournes. Tra­di­tion­ally the trails are busy at week­ends with walk­ers and moun­tain en­thu­si­asts

flock­ing to en­joy the iconic and scenic scenery the Mournes has to of­fer.

“Un­for­tu­nately to­day, what is a rou­tine and en­joy­able trip for many ended in ab­so­lute hor­ror.”

In­de­pen­dent union­ist coun­cil­lor Henry Reilly said Newry, Mourne and Down Coun­cil should con­sider plac­ing in­for­ma­tion signs on the moun­tains in the wake of the tragedy.

“Ev­ery­one I have been speak­ing to this evening re­ally are in shock at this tragic news,” he said.

“The weather con­di­tions were ex­traor­di­nar­ily mild yes­ter­day but there were re­ally strong wind gusts and I think that has what has caught peo­ple out on the moun­tain.

“The sever­ity of the winds at times yes­ter­day would have lit­er­ally blown you off your feet and that was on the low­lands, so up in the high­lands you could mul­ti­ply that sev­eral times.

“The moun­tains can be a very, very dan­ger­ous place.

“Our coun­cil has a pol­icy of pro­mot­ing the Mournes as a tourist venue and a walk­ing desti­na­tion.

“We have peo­ple com­ing from all over Europe and the world to walk in the moun­tains.

“Maybe we have to look at pro­vid­ing more in­for­ma­tion points and guid­ance for those walk­ing up in the moun­tains, re­mind­ing peo­ple what they should do be­fore they go up into the moun­tains and of the dan­gers of walk­ing in the Mournes.”

❝ The weather closed in re­ally quickly. The wind was so strong it al­most blew me off my feet

PATRICK COR­RI­GAN/ PSNI AIR SUP­PORT

Po­lice re­spond to emer­gency on the Mourne moun­tains yes­ter­day. Below: View from the PSNI he­li­copter

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