Assembly tributes after farm tragedy

Published Monday, 09 June 2014
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MLAs have paid tribute to the eight-year-old boy who lost his life in a Co Antrim farming accident on Saturday.

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Robert Christie was at a neighbour's farm on the Ballynaloob Road near Dunloy with his 52-year-old father, also named Robert, when they both were overcome by slurry fumes.

He was described by his school principal as a caring child who loved spending time with his father.

His funeral will take place at Ballyweaney Presbyterian Church on Tuesday.

The boy's father remains in a critical condition at the Causeway Hospital.

North Antrim TUV MLA Jim Allister opened proceedings with tributes to the family on Monday.

"I am sure that the hearts of us all go out to that family: to the devastated mother, Simone, and the boy's two elder sisters, Isobel and Alice, and, of course, our thoughts are very much with the father, Bertie, as he struggles to overcome what has beset him," he said.

"I am sure that it is the prayer of us all that he will recover because that family will need the strength and support of a father in the coming weeks and months."

He said that thoughts were also with those at Knockahollett Primary School, where Primary Four pupil Robert attended along with his two sisters.

Our thoughts today are also with the community in the Knockahollett area and the Ballyweaney Church community, the Presbyterian Church to which the Christie family were attached. Tomorrow it will host a very sad event.

Jim Allister

DUP MLA for the area, Mervyn Storey, said the accident happened as many in the local farming community were enjoying the Ballymoney Show, an annual agricultural event.

"It was only as the news began to pass through the show that the sheer horror of all that was taking place began to descend upon us. Little did we think what was going to be the story that would unfold," he said.

"I worked with Robert's mother, Simone, prior to coming to this House, in what was then the Lovell and Christmas bacon company. Many happy days were spent there.

"I know that, today, as a mother, her heart is breaking. We continue to pray for Bertie's life to be preserved as he makes, we trust, a recovery. As a parent and a grandparent, I cannot begin -- nor can anyone in this Chamber today -- to imagine the sorrow and the heartbreak that have descended on the Christie home."

Sinn Féin MLA for North Antrim, Daithí McKay, also passed his condolences to the family.

"The events of the weekend sent shock waves throughout the north Antrim area, the local community in Knockahollett and Dunloy, and the farming community across the North. The tragedy echoes the accident a number of years ago involving the Spence family and highlights, as the proposer of the debate said, how dangerous farms can be.

"Many people do not realise how dangerous slurry tanks are. I spoke recently to a constituent whose father was overwhelmed when dealing with slurry and has been shaken and nervous about carrying out that farm duty ever since. Nobody should underestimate how dangerous the farm place is."

UUP MLA for the area, Robin Swann added: "Our thoughts and prayers will be with the Christie family in the difficult days that lie ahead, and tomorrow, at the funeral of young Robert in Ballyweaney Presbyterian Church, where the family will get a chance to say a final farewell to their son.

"However, we have to bear Simone in our thoughts and that, at that time, Isobel and Alice will be going through a very difficult day without the presence and guiding hand of their father, Bertie, as he recovers.

"Everyone in the House hopes that Bertie recovers to full strength and can come back to his family.

"As we all recognise, farms are a dangerous place, but, as we all know in Northern Ireland, they are also a family place. We remember and think of the Christie family at this time."

The Health and Safety Executive are investigating the incident.

© UTV News
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4 Comments
Ray in Belfast wrote (196 days ago):
Go Bless and take care of this little boy and please help his Dad to a speedy recovery. In our Thoughts
Stephen in Derry wrote (196 days ago):
Sleep well wee robert,such a heart rendering story.i pray his father makes a full recovery and that all the family somehow get through this.lord watch them.
Niall McA in Ard Mhaca wrote (196 days ago):
Such a tragic loss, another family left shattered after yet another farming accident. Surely something can be done to vent of these fumes as they are escaping during the mixing process? R.I.P wee man
Pauline in Belfast wrote (196 days ago):
My thoughts and prayers are with you all,and I pray to God that Bertie survives this terrible tragedy,and may the wee man rest in peace God Bless xxxx
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