William Dunlop: Sporting hero dies in third tragedy for road-racing family
FRIENDS of William Dunlop, who died following a motorcycle crash, have remembered him as "a lovely fella on and off the bike".
The 32-year-old Ballymoney man, whose father Robert and uncle Joey both lost their lives racing, passed away from injuries sustained during a Superbike practice session of the Skerries 100 event in Co Dublin on Saturday.
It is understood that William's brother Michael was riding behind him during the practice session when tragedy stuck.
A member of the famous Dunlop racing family, William was a past winner at the North West 200 and Ulster GP.
He had due to become a father for the second time later this year with partner Janine Brolly. The pair already have a daughter, 23-month-old Ellie together.
His death is the third tragedy to befall the famous racing family. His father Robert died in a crash at the North West 200 in 2008, while uncle Joey was killed in a crash in Estonia in 2000.
A host of tributes from across the north have been paid to the talented biker, hailed as a "sporting legend", while flowers have been laid at the Dunlop Memorial Garden in Ballymoney, where there are statues to both Robert and Joey.
The Armoy Motorcycle Road Racing Club, of which William was a member said they were "beyond devastated" to hear the news.
"Such a lovely fella on and off the bike. He will be missed so much by us all," they said.
DUP leader Arlene Foster said she was "shocked and saddened" to hear about the death of a "sporting legend".
"Motorcycling was his life and he will be forever remembered for his many achievements, both in Ballymoney and across the world," she tweeted.
UUP leader Robin Swann expressed his deepest sympathies to the Dunlop family in the wake of "another road racing tragedy".
"I would ask the entire community, not just the constituency's road racing fraternity, to remember the Dunlop family circle in their thoughts and prayers as they face the challenge of yet another road racing tragedy. Sport in general, and not just road racing, has lost another Dunlop legend."
Sinn Féin North Antrim MLA, Philip McGuigan described William Dunlop as a "hero".
“Motorbike racing is very popular throughout Ireland but nowhere more is that the case than in North Antrim. William was a hero to many in these parts and the community will be devastated at this news," he said.
The Loughshinny Motorcycle Supporters Club, organisers of the Skerries 100, extended its heartfelt sympathy to the Dunlop family circle and took the decision yesterday to continue with the event "following discussion with the family, their sponsors and fellow riders". With the riders' permission it was agreed that the entire prize fund be donated to William Dunlop's family.
"It will be a non-championship meeting and the club hope everyone will consider this a fitting tribute to William and his previous race performance and results at the Skerries 100," a statement read.