Northern Ireland news

Rower injured after 'explosive' firework strikes rowing boat on Belfast's River Lagan

Ormeau Bridge in south Belfast Picture where the rowers were struck by a firework. Picture by Mal McCann.
Marie Louise McConville

AN EXPERIENCED rower has told of the moment his boat was struck by a firework on the River Lagan causing a "deep burn" to his friend's back.

Shane Whittley (58) was with his rowing partner Tom Harpur (63) when the incident happened on Tuesday October 6.

The pair left Belfast Boat Club at Lockview Road to row down river to the Waterfront Hall.

However, as they approached Ormeau Road bridge at around 4.30pm, a firework was thrown at the rowing boat by a group of young people on the bridge.

It landed in the boat and exploded, blowing through the thick fibreglass..

As Mr Harpur was rowing with his back to the bridge, he was not aware the firework had been thrown.

It landed behind him and caused a "deep burn" to his back.

A firework thrown at a rowing boat on the River Lagan on Tuesday caused significant damage when it exploded on board the vessel

Mr Whittley, a father-of-three, said despite what happened they had been "very lucky".

"It was a shock," said the businessman.

"I thought it was a stone when I heard something hit the boat. It landed in the boat and exploded and blew a hole in it.

"Tom didn't realise because it happened just behind him. It landed between his feet and he went forward and it exploded behind him.

"If it had have exploded as he was going over it, it would have been a much different story. He was burnt on his back. It was quite a deep burn. He was really lucky."

Ater the incident they turned the boat and rowed back up to the boat club.

"It could have ended up a much more serious situation and we are both pretty experienced rowers.

"If it had have been one of the juniors or the kids, it would have been a disaster picture."

Police said a 12-year-old boy has been cautioned by police in front of his parents in relation to a number of offences.

He will now be referred to the youth diversion officer.

Chief Inspector Gavin Kirkpatrick said the "misuse of fireworks, which are essentially made up of explosive materials, is an extremely reckless act, which can result in serious harm and life changing injuries.

"This irresponsible action not only threatened the life of the people using boats on the river, but also of the person throwing the fireworks and those who were also present at that time," he said.

Significant damage was caused to the rowing boat

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