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Fatal accident prompts renewed safety concerns

January 31, 2012

By Christine Keighery

As the family of Newry businessman, Pat McArdle, attempt to come to terms with his tragic death on Wednesday, the fatal crash on Newry’s Fathom Line has turned attention to safety issues on the notorious stretch of road.

The car which Mr McArdle was driving left the road and plunged into the canal shortly before 2.00pm.  A major search and rescue operation was immediately launched involving emergency services from both sides of the border.

Mr McArdle’s remains were recovered by police divers from his submerged vehicle some hours later.

Originally from County Louth, Pat McArdle was the proprietor of Snaubs boutique on Monaghan Street and Nan Rice’s bar, located on Francis Street in Newry.

Highly respected and popular among the city’s business community, local solicitor Margaret Elliot, who has known the family for more than forty years, said his tragic passing is a great shock to the many who knew him well.

“Pat and his family are held in such high regard. He was a devoted husband and father.  Pat had been in business for 36 years. He was always known for being such a hard worker, was very honest and always helpful. We are all just shocked by this tragedy,” Ms Elliot said.

Safety

The tragedy has prompted renewed pleas for more stringent safety measures to be implemented on the road, which is the main cross-border route between Newry and Omeath, Co. Louth, and deemed to be an accident blackspot.

Five years ago 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.  Having swerved to avoid an oncoming vehicle, the family’s car plummeted into the water and quickly submerged upside-down, trapping the occupants inside.  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.

Speaking on Radio Ulster on Thursday, Ms Rice said she was “shocked and angry” at the latest tragedy, and extended her thoughts and prayers to Mr McArdle’s family who, she said, “should never have had to experience this”.

The young mother had lobbied for safety barriers to be erected following her own harrowing ordeal, and had drawn 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, according to Miss Rice, is woefully inadequate protection on such a stretch of road.

“What I went through still haunts me and knowing that another family has to go through it, because the department responsible won’t put more money into the safety of this road is awful. Is it going to take another life lost to make them invest in proper safety measures?” she asked.

Mayor Charlie Casey agreed with the comments calling for the current barriers to be extended. He said he would be asking Councillors to lobby the appropriate departments to re-examine the area.

Expressing his sympathy to Mr McArdle’s family, Mayor Casey added, “There is a history of deaths and accidents on this road and people in power need to be mindful of that. Serious consideration should be given to implement whatever measures necessary to prevent this happening again.”

SDLP MLA Dominic Bradley also questioned the safety of the road: “The stretch of road on which the accident happened is extremely treacherous and this road, sadly, has claimed other lives in the past. There is clearly a need to draw greater attention to the danger which this stretch of road presents to motorists and that is something which I will be raising with Roads Service.”

Mr Bradley said his thoughts are with the family and friends of Mr McArdle at this time.

In response, a spokesperson for the Department for Regional Development said: “Roads Service has no immediate plans to erect barriers at this location, however we will consider the outcome of the PSNI investigation.”

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