Tributes paid to dad who died after falling from Antrim bonfire ahead of 'Eleventh Night' celebrations | The SunJuly 10, 2022
TRIBUTES have been paid to a young man who died after falling from a bonfire.
Tragic John Steele lost his life in the accident at the Antiville pyre site in the Fairway area of Larne, Co Antrim.
Dad-of-two John, 32, was helping to build the bonfire when tragedy struck at around 9.30pm on Friday night.
It is understood the bonfire builder fell from the top tier of the structure which is more than 50 feet tall and was being constructed ahead of ‘Eleventh Night’ celebrations.
Grieving family and friends revealed John was born and raised in Antiville, with a cousin telling how the accident victim lived for the Twelfth celebrations.
The window cleaner was described as “well-respected” in the community, with locals declaring his death had “brought a dark cloud” over the Antiville area of Larne.
The Antiville Bonfire builders said: “This is a post none of us has ever wanted to write.
“Last night one of our very own had a tragic accident at the Bonfire and unfortunately passed away.
“We are obviously deeply saddened by this loss of a young life.
“John was a true Antivillian through and through born and bred, a dark cloud has certainly risen over the Antiville estate today.
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“Our deepest and sincere condolences are sent from our hearts to his entire family circle at this heartbreaking time.
“Please give the family their time and privacy at this obviously hard time for them. Gone But Not Forgotten.”
The Constable Anderson Memorial Flute Band flagged up its close ties to the Steele family.
Paying tribute, the band said: “The officers and members of Constable Anderson Memorial Flute Band are deeply saddened to learn of the tragic passing of John Steele after an accident at a local Larne bonfire.
“John’s daughter Macy-Lee has recently joined the band and we extend our deepest condolences to her.
“The band also have close ties to the Steele family and we are especially thinking of our members Tia and Tamera Steele. Our thoughts and prayers are also with the entire family at this hard time.”
Cops are probing the tragedy with the bonfire set to be dismantled.
Local politicians have sent their condolences to Mr Steele’s family.
John Stewart, Ulster Unionist MLA for East Antrim, said: “This is absolutely tragic news and my thoughts and deepest sympathies are with the man’s family, friends and the entire community at this really difficult time.
“This was a terrible accident and the local community will rally round to give the family as much support as possible.
“I would appeal to everyone to cooperate with the investigation into what happened.”
Local Alliance Party MLA Stewart Dickson said: “Sad news from Larne as a young man died after falling from a 11th night bonfire being built in Antiville.
“My deepest sympathy goes to his family and friend and the whole community as it reflects on this tragic death.”
DUP MP for the area Sammy Wilson, who attended the scene on Saturday night, told how the community was reeling.
“My thoughts and sympathy are with this man’s family,” Wilson said
“It is a real tragedy at what is a special time of year for people in the loyalist community.
“The family are well-known in the area, and I am sure this will be greatly felt within the community.”
BONFIRE TO BE REMOVED
DUP MP Wilson added that he understood the bonfire would now be removed by members of the community.
Craigyhill Presbyterian Church Minister Ben Preston visited the scene and spoke of the shock in the area.
He said: “As a church, our deepest condolences are with the family and community of Antiville and Craigy Hill.
“No-one involved in this kind of thing expects that to happen – the community is in shock and is numb.
“The community gather around the family and we remember them in our thoughts and prayers.
“Our thanks go to the Ambulance Service, PSNI, and Fire and Rescue Service for their work.”
Cops have appealed for witnesses to contact them.
PSNI Inspector Adrian Bryan said: “We understand that the man was assisting in the building of the bonfire when this tragic accident occurred.
“Our thoughts are very much with his family at this time.
“Our investigation has commenced and we are appealing for witnesses, especially those who were in the area last night around 10.15pm, to come forward and contact us on 101 quoting reference number 1866 09/07/22.”
Cops maintained a low-key presence at the bonfire site this morning.
It is one of many being built in loyalist areas across Northern Ireland ahead of traditional “Eleventh Night” celebrations.
The fires are lit to usher in the main date in the Protestant loyal order parading season – the Twelfth of July.
The construction of the Antiville fire was nearing completion when the incident happened.
John was pronounced dead at the scene.
The fatal fall in Antiville comes as Larne had been making headlines for another bonfire in the town.
Bonfire builders in the nearby Craigyhill estate are attempting to break a world record for the tallest bonfire, which currently stands at 198 feet.
The Craigyhill builders said they will continue with their record bid in tribute to the man’s memory.
Twelfth commemorations in Northern Ireland mark the victory of Protestant King William of Orange over Catholic King James II at the Battle of the Boyne, north of Dublin, in 1690 – a triumph that secured a Protestant line of succession to the British Crown.
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