Tributes to firefighter

The funeral of firefighter Nial Hamilton who died suddenly while on duty in Lurgan this week is to take place today (Thursday) in Enniskillen.

Based at Lurgan station, the 44 year old and his colleagues had been responding to a car on fire at Deeny Drive in the Kilwilkie estate at around 9.30pm on Monday night.

A fire engine was tasked and the blaze was brought under control in just over 10 minutes. It is understand the fire was caused by an electrical fault.

However, shortly after the fire was extinguished Mr Hamilton collapsed at the scene.

Mr Hamilton, a father of two, joined the then Northern Ireland Fire Brigade in September 1990 serving initially in Cadogan and Knock Fire Stations in Belfast before moving to Lurgan Fire Station.

Residents of the Kilwilkie estate have sent two letters of condolence to Mr Hamilton’s colleague’s in Lurgan Fire Station and to his wife Ruth and their two young sons, Alex and Rory. “The cards expressed the heartfelt condolences and gratitude of the residents of Kilwilkie,” said a spokesperson.

Chief Fire Officer Chris Kerr said: “Our thoughts are very much with Nial’s wife Ruth and their two young sons, Alex and Rory, at this difficult time.

“The circumstances of Nial’s death are currently under investigation and a post mortem is being carried out to determine the cause of his death.

He added: “I would like to pay tribute to Nial’s colleagues who gave immediate first aid and requested an ambulance. Nial was treated at the scene by paramedics and was taken by ambulance to Craigavon Area Hospital and despite the best efforts of all the medical staff he tragically later died.

“I had the privilege of serving with Nial when he was a firefighter in Belfast and I can tell you all of the wider fire and rescue service family are shocked and saddened by the news of his untimely death.”

A Health and Safety Executive NI spokesperson said: “HSENI have been made aware of the tragic death of a fireman and are currently investigating. Our deepest sympathies are with the family at this most difficult time.”

Jim Wallace, NIFRS Chief Executive sent his deepest condolences and sympathy to Mr Hamilton’s family, friends and colleagues.

“Northern Ireland Fire & Rescue Service is a very close knit organisation and we are all feeling the pain and loss of Nial’s death. We have offered his family our full support at this very difficult time,” he said.

Mr Hamilton’s Area Commander, John Denvir added: “On behalf of everyone at Lurgan Fire Station who served alongside Nial and all his colleagues throughout Portadown District and Southern Area Command, we are devastated following the death of our friend and colleague, Firefighter Nial Hamilton.

“Our thoughts are with his wife and sons, his family circle and his many friends and colleagues. Nial was a dedicated Firefighter, a very popular member of our team and he had a very promising career ahead of him. He will be greatly missed by everyone who knew him.”

As a mark of respect, the NIFRS flag is being flown at half-mast at all NIFRS premises and a minute silence was held at NIFRS Headquarters.

Lurgan Ulster Unionist Councillor and Deputy Mayor of Craigavon Colin McCusker said: “My thoughts, and I’m sure those of all the wider community are with his family, friends and colleagues at this extremely difficult time.

“Our Firefighters carry out extremely stressful duties, working shifts and tackling very dangerous situations. Firefighters carry out these duties with very little fuss, and provide an invaluable service to the whole community.

“We are indebted to the Fire Service, and I would like to extend my deepest sympathy to the whole family of this brave Firefighter who has died carrying out his duties to protect and save lives.”

Upper Bann Sinn Féin MLA John O’Dowd said: “I wish to pass on my sympathies and those of the entire community to the family, friends and colleagues of this local Firefighter who lost his life serving the community.

“Firefighting is a crucial and vital service for our society and members of the service command the upmost respect in our community.

“We are also mindful of those firefighters who were on duty together (on Monday night) when the incident occurred. The thoughts and support of us all go to them and their families.”

Upper Bann MLA Dolores Kelly said: “It is absolutely heart breaking to hear a man who was so well respected and liked by his colleagues has passed away so suddenly. From what his colleagues have said he was extremely good natured and very dedicated to a job that he loved.”

Ulster Unionist MLA Joanne Dobson said: “It was with deep sadness that I learnt of his sudden death. Firefighting is a dangerous job and my thoughts are with the Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service as they mourn the loss of a valued friend and colleague.”

Matt Wrack, Fire Brigades Union general secretary, said: “I know all Fire Brigades Union members will join me in sending condolences to Nial’s family, friends and colleagues at this difficult time.”