Employment Minister Stephen Farry was in Washington last week when he spoke to the Belfast Telegraph, just as it was confirmed that a helicopter crash in Norfolk had claimed the lives of Norbrook chairman Lord Ballyedmond, whose company employed around 1,700 people in Northern Ireland, his foreman Declan Small and two pilots.
Asked what might lie ahead for the company, Mr Farry said: "My first reaction is that it's a very tragic loss first of all for the family.
"Our thoughts have to be with them ahead of any concerns of the impact on the business or the economy."
He said Norbrook made a "massive contribution" to the economy and said he had been in direct contact with Lord Ballyedmond in recent weeks on developing higher apprenticeships in the pharmaceutical company.
"He took a very keen interest in making sure there was a strong skills pipeline at Norbrook."