Tributes paid to hikers killed in falls on Mourne Mountains
Tributes have been paid to two hikers who died in separate falls amid high winds on a Northern Ireland mountain range.
Robbie Robinson, from Banbridge, Co Down, and Sean Byrne from Camlough, Co Armagh, were killed within an hour of each other on the Mourne Mountains on Sunday.
The first fatal incident happened on a crag on the Wee Binnian hill shortly before 12pm. The second occurred on crags on the Slieve Commedagh mountain just before 1pm.
Another man was injured in a third falling incident, in an area known as the Saddle, around 2.30pm. He sustained a broken ankle.
Strong wind gusts and wet terrain made for hazardous conditions on the mountains on Sunday. An Irish Coastguard helicopter was unable to assist the operations due to the poor conditions.
Mr Robinson was a former chief superintendent in the Police Service of Northern Ireland.
Retired Stormont Assembly member and former Police Federation chairman Jimmy Spratt tweeted: “Shocked and saddened to hear of the tragic death of Robbie Robinson in the Mourne Mountains yesterday.
“His family are in my thoughts and prayers, as is the family of the other accident.”
Mr Byrne had a life-long passion for Gaelic games and was a trustee and former treasurer of his local hurling club Craobh Rua Camlocha.
In a statement, the club said his death had “devastated us all”.
“He had a great love for our Club and he showed this over the years by the giving freely of his time and experience to help us develop and become rooted within our community.
“He possessed great gifts of commitment, integrity, calmness and care. He loved his family, his community, Gaelic sport and culture.
“No words we can say will lessen the shock and pain of his family as they struggle to come to terms with this news. However we will be there for them just as Sean had been here for us over the past 30 years.
“We convey our deepest sympathies to the families of both those killed whilst climbing yesterday in the Mourne Mountains.”
The Mourne Mountain Rescue Team (MMRT), the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI), Irish Coastguard and other emergency services were involved in the recovery and rescue operations on the mountains lasting nine hours on Sunday.
The mountains are classified as an area of outstanding natural beauty and are popular with hill walkers and hikers.
The PSNI tweeted on Monday: “The mountaineering community is a close knit family and the loss will be felt by many.”
A total of 21 members of the MMRT were on the mountain during Sunday’s operations.
The team posted on Facebook: “To have two fatal incidents in the course of a day is an anomalous situation and our thoughts and sympathies are with the families of the deceased.”
The PSNI’s Air Support unit described the recovery and rescue operations as “tough and challenging”.
A tweet said: “In strong winds we managed to airlift one male out but sadly the two others had died. Our thoughts are with their loved ones.”
Ten members of the PSNI’s Search and Rescue team were also involved in Sunday’s emergency response.