Northern Ireland news

Father-of-four and ex-police officer die in two separate falls in the Mournes

Sean Byrne was a father-of-four from Camlough. Picture: Craobh Rua Camlocha Hurling Club/Facebook

A FORMER senior police officer from Co Down and a father-of-four from south Armagh have died while walking in the Mourne Mountains.

Sean Byrne, a father-of-four from Camlough, Co Armagh, was killed after he fell 100 feet in hazardous weather conditions yesterday afternoon.

In a separate incident, a second man in his sixties died after he fell in the same mountain range yesterday.

He was named locally as Robbie Robinson, a former senior police officer from Banbridge in Co Down.

Mr Robinson, who was married with children, is believed to have been in his late sixties. He is thought to have retired as a police officer several years ago.

Police said one man - believed to be Mr Byrne - died after he fell on Wee Binnian shortly before midday.

It is understood Mr Robinson died after he slid down a long slope on Slieve Commedagh - the second highest peak in the Mournes - shortly before 1pm.

Both men died at the scene. It is understood both were experienced walkers.

A third man was rescued from the mountains with a broken ankle following a fall close to the Saddle at around 2.30pm.

SDLP MLA Justin McNulty, who knowns the Byrne family, said the deaths of two men on the same range in the same day were "completely tragic".

"These were people who were pursuing their passion in hazardous weather," he said.

"I have never heard of two people losing their lives in this way."

SDLP assembly member Justin McNulty

Sinn Féin MLA Conor Murphy said the Camlough area had been "devastated" by the news.

He said the "thoughts and prayers of all are with both families as they come to terms with the news of these tragic deaths".

Sinn Féin negotiator Conor Murphy

Ulster Unionist councillor Ian Burns, who knew Mr Robinson well, described him as an "absolute gentleman".

He said Mr Robinson was an active member of the Anglican Holy Trinity Church in Banbridge and co-ordinated its annual fete.

Parishioners were stunned to learn of Mr Robinson's death when the news was announced at the church's evening service yesterday.

"I would have seen Robbie almost every Sunday and he would have always had a smile on his face," he said.

"My thoughts are with his wife Barbara and family."

DUP MLA Jim Wells praised the Mourne Mountain Rescue Team and said they had never had to deal with three serious incidents in one afternoon before.

He said the mild January weather had encouraged more walkers to visit the mountains.

"It was very wet under-foot and I understand people just lost their footing," he said.

"Now two men are dead and one is in hospital."

Graham Seymour, chairman of the Ulster Federation of Rambling Clubs, said he was saddened by the deaths.

"We would like to extend our sympathies to the families of both men," he said.

"We understand that people want to go walking in the hills but this is a reminder that what looks like good weather one minute can change dramatically."

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