Tributes paid to bonfire builder slain in the fall

Tributes have been paid to a man who died after falling from a bonfire in Northern Ireland.

John Steele was helping to build the imposing pyre on the Antiville Estate in Larne, County Antrim, when the incident happened on Saturday night.

The bonfire, built from stacked wooden pallets, was over 50 feet tall.

Police remained at the scene on Sunday morning before the bonfire was dismantled (PA)

It was one of around 250 that were built in Loyalist areas of Northern Ireland ahead of the traditional ‘Eleventh Night’ celebrations.

The fires are lit to usher in the main date of the Protestant Loyal Order’s parade season – July 12.

Construction of the Antiville fire was nearing completion when the incident occurred.

The bonfire was extinguished on Sunday as plans to light it were cancelled.

Mr Steele, a window cleaner in his 30s, was pronounced dead at the scene. He was from the Antiville region.

bonfire fall
The bonfire was dismantled on Sunday (Liam McBurney/PA)

A line of floral tributes left by residents near the scene of the dismantled bonfire grew on Sunday.

A Liverpool football shirt and the flag of a flute band were tied to a fence at the site.

A vigil was scheduled for later Sunday evening.

Area MP Sammy Wilson said the community was in shock.

“It is a real tragedy at this special time of year for members of the loyalist community,” he said.

“The family is well known in the area, and I’m sure this will be felt greatly within the community.”

bonfire fall
A man lays flowers near the stage (Liam McBurney/PA)

Mid and East Antrim Council Mayor Noel Williams offered his condolences after the death.

“The loss of life of a young man in an accident at a bonfire site in Larne is shocking and my thoughts are with his heartbroken loved ones,” he said.

“The community is hurting and my prayers go out to everyone affected by this terrible tragedy.”

Stormont Justice Minister and Alliance Party Leader Naomi Long tweeted: “Heartbreaking news that a young man has lost his life falling from a bonfire. I am thinking of his family, friends and the wider community as they deal with this tragic loss of life.

“I hope people will give them space to grieve privately at such a difficult time.”

Police have appealed for witnesses to come forward.

Bonfire record
Construction of the nearby Craigyhill bonfire in Larne is due to continue as builders attempt to break a world record for the tallest bonfire (Mark Marlow)

Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) Inspector Adrian Bryan said: ‘We understand the man was helping build the bonfire when this tragic accident happened. Our thoughts are very much with his family at this time.

The fatal fall in Antiville came as Larne made headlines for another bonfire in the town.

Bonfire builders in nearby Craigyhill Estate are trying to break a world record for the tallest bonfire – a record that stands at 198ft.

The builders have vowed to continue with their record-breaking bid in tribute to Mr Steele’s memory.

The 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 succession to the British crown .

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