Northern Ireland news

Man who died in Co Down park while trying to rescue dog from river was an `absolute gent'

Antrim man Arnie Clarke who died in Tollymore Forest Park on Thursday
Marie Louise McConville

A MAN who died trying to rescue his pet dog from a river has been remembered as a "good friend" and "absolute gent".

Arnie Clarke (56) died on Thursday in Tollymore Forest Park in Newcastle, Co Down.

He was well known in sporting circles with connections to Naomh Comhghall GAA club and Antrim FC.

It is understood Mr Clarke was on a visit home from France where he worked for Michelin.

The Ambulance Service is understood to have received a 999 call to say a man had gone into the river to rescue a dog.

Another man was said to have entered the river in an attempt to save Mr Clarke and managed to pull him from the water.

Despite efforts by paramedics, Mr Clarke was pronounced dead at the scene.

The second man was taken to hospital for treatment.

A PSNI spokesman said officers attended the scene of the sudden death but added that it was "not being treated as suspicious".

Paying tribute, Naomh Comhghall said there had been "great sadness" following the death of a "good friend".

"He never missed training and always loved a challenge both on and off the pitch, would back down to no-one from the day he got into the senior team," the club said.

"Arnie always loved the craic after the game was over, the boys would have went to Dunloy, Waterfoot, Cushendall or wherever there was a bit of music on a Sunday night. Even now at 56, Arnie had always looked after himself and could be seen walking his beloved dog when he was home from France. RIP my good friend and friend of St Comgall's GAC."

Former Antrim FC manager Gerard McAuley said Mr Clarke was "a tenacious battler in our midfield for a number of few years, he was a great trainer and all round club man".

Other friends posted tributes on Facebook. One said "such a sad loss of an absolute gent" while another called him a "friend on and off the pitch".

Another friend added: "Such tragic news to hear from the other side of the world, he was a gentleman and had so many great times in the past on the pitch with him and his brothers."

Requiem Mass for Mr Clarke will take place at St Comgall's Church in Antrim at 10am on Monday. He will be laid to rest in Belmont Cemetery.

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