Tragic canal crash prompts renewed safety concerns at accident blackspot

June 30, 2014

By Christine Keighery

The death of a 50 year old Newry woman whose car crashed into Newry canal last week has prompted renewed calls for more stringent safety measures at the notorious blackspot.

Patricia Campbell, a mother-of-four who was “loved by all” died after her car plunged into Newry Canal, on the Fathom Line, on the Omeath Road, last Tuesday afternoon.

The full-time mother had two sons and two daughters aged in their late teens to early 20s, and also leaves behind her husband Ian.

The one vehicle crash was reported at 1.30pm on Tuesday after the black-coloured car driven by Mrs Campbell entered the canal several miles along the Fathom Line outside the city.

Paramedics and three fire appliances attended the scene and police divers spent several hours searching for the car, which had sunk to the bottom of the canal.

Local residents have described the stretch of road as “treacherous” and said the main cross-border route between Newry and Omeath was an accident blackspot which had claimed the lives of many over the years.

In January 2012, well known businessman Pat McArdle died after his car left the Fathom Line near Victoria Lock.

In 2007, a Belfast woman and three of her family members, including her two-year-old son, narrowly escaped death when their car left the road and plunged into the water at the same spot. Geraldine Rice and her son, Caolan, were trapped in the rear of the vehicle until the front passengers escaped and managed to free the mother and son through the broken rear window.

The young mother subsequently lobbied for safety barriers to be erected following her own harrowing ordeal, and drew attention to the lack of speed cameras and speed bumps on the road. She also called for a lower speed limit to be introduced.

To date, a 100m long barrier has been erected which she described as “woefully inadequate protection” on the stretch of road.

SDLP councillor John McArdle, voiced his safety concerns as he paid tribute to the Mrs Campbell, who he knew very well.

He described her as a “kind-hearted person who was loved by all” and said her family were heartbroken by the tragedy.

He said the stretch of road which runs along the former ship canal had a “black history.”

“In my lifetime I am aware of at least 10 cars going off into the canal – most ended in fatalities” said Mr McArdle

Independent councillor Jackie Patterson, who also knew Mrs Campbell for years, expressed his sympathy to her family and raised the issue of safety along the canal bank.

“The community are really very shocked,” said Mr Patterson,

“It’s another person who has lost their life in the canal.

“Over the years there have been a lot of improvements there with crash barriers and the walls being reinstated, but it is still plaguing people.

“They put up crash barriers at particular blackspots,” he added.  “The trouble is, the banks are so steep and there are gaps where there are slipways.”