A man in his 30s has died after falling from a more than 15 metres high bonfire built from wooden pallets to mark the eve of the “Twelfth” in the North.
The Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) said it is investigating the death on Saturday night at Antiville in the Fairway area of Larne, Co Antrim. They are appealing for witnesses.
Emergency services attended the bonfire site just after 9.30pm. The victim was pronounced dead at the scene.
The bonfire was not the largest in Larne and is among many others planned to be torched around the North for “Eleventh Night” celebrations, that traditionally usher in the climax of the loyalist marching season, July 12th.
Police remained at the scene on Sunday.
Sammy Wilson, DUP MP for East Antrim, described the death as “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,” he said.
Preparations were being made to dismantle the bonfire, said Mr Wilson.
Organisers of a larger bonfire in Larne, at Craigyhill, who are attempting to break a world record for the largest bonfire — that stands at just more than 60 metres — posted on social media its “deepest sympathy” to a “fellow bonfire builder”.
“It is with his family wishes that the Craigyhill bonfire carries on and beats the world record in his memory,” they stated.
PSNI Inspector Adrian Bryan said it was understood the victim was “assisting in the building of the bonfire when this tragic accident occurred”.
“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,” he said.
Stewart Dixon, Alliance MLA, said: “My deepest sympathy goes to his family and friends and the whole community as it reflects on this tragic death.”
John Stewart, Ulster Unionist MLA for East Antrim, appealed for locals to “co-operate with the investigation into what happened”.
“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,” he said.
“This was a terrible accident and the local community will rally round to give the family as much support as possible.”
Ben Preston, minister at Craigy Hill Presbyterian Church, near the bonfire site, told his congregation at Sunday morning service that the community was “numb”.
“Our deepest condolences are with the family and indeed the whole community,” he said.
Mr Preston said his church was planning to “do outreach” at the bonfire on Sunday night, and would instead organise to “come alongside people who are grieving, mourning.”
“I understand from (the) council that they are going to be taking the bonfire down, that is wholly appropriate,” he said.
“We are numb, and we are in shock at such an accident, such a tragedy.”