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Tributes to Silverbridge crash victim Patrick Cooney

Police were alerted to the accident in Silverbridge shortly after 5.40am
Brendan Hughes

A MAN who died in a road crash in Co Armagh has been fondly described as "honest and hard-working".

Patrick Cooney (46) was said to have been driving home from work in the early hours when his van hit a tree on Wednesday.

It happened in Silverbridge at the spot where a stone memorial marks the tragic death of a man in another single-vehicle crash 12 years ago.

Police were alerted to the accident on the New Road at its junction with Legmoylan Road shortly after 5.40am.

Mr Cooney, known to many as 'Poppy', was married and lived just outside the village of Newtownhamilton.

He was a digger driver and director of Cooney Contracts who had been working in Dublin.

The road remained closed on Wednesday and diversions were put in place as enquiries continued to establish the cause of the single-vehicle crash.

Locals told how cold weather overnight had caused treacherous driving conditions with icy patches in some areas.

Sinn Féin councillor Barra Ó Muirí, who lives only a mile from the crash scene, expressed shock over the tragedy.

"Unfortunately it looks like he was returning home from work early in the morning and lost his life on a dangerous stretch of road," he said.

"This is the second death by a road accident on the exact same spot, which as a local representative would sort of shake you a bit."

Mr Ó Muirí urged roads officials to look at improving safety on the rural stretch following the tragedies at the same junction.

Paying tribute to Mr Cooney, he added: "I have been talking to many of his friends and work colleagues and they all impressed upon me his work ethic.

"We are sending our thoughts and prayers to the Cooney family. He was an honest, hard-working man."

Mr Cooney is survived by his wife Margaret, mother Mary and four siblings.

SDLP South Down MLA Karen McKevitt said: "I wish extend my deepest condolences to this man's family and friends at this tragic time. It is difficult for us to imagine how they must be feeling."

Nine people have died on the north's roads so far during 2016, compared to three over the same period last year and eight in 2014.

Inspector Lorraine Dobson appealed for anyone with information to contact officers in Newtownhamilton, or the collision investigation unit in Sprucefield on the non-emergency number 101.

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