The family of a 13-year-old boy killed after he was struck by a train say they are “beyond devastated”.
Christopher McAlinden was killed close to a disused railway halt near Lurgan, Co Armagh, on Wednesday evening.
Speaking at the family’s home in Magheralin yesterday afternoon, Christopher’s heartbroken father David said he was struggling to come to terms with the shocking news.
“We are beyond devastated,” he said.
Mr McAlinden said he was unable to comment any further on the loss of his son, a second year pupil at Banbridge Academy.
His grief-stricken classmates were given permission to go home early from school yesterday when told of the news.
A friend close to the McAlinden family said Christopher had told his parents he was going to visit his aunt who lives a short distance from his home.
But when he did not appear, family members became alarmed. They were then informed of the fatal collision on the railway track which is roughly five miles from their home.
Christopher was struck by the train at around 7.20pm.
A lifelong family friend of David McAlinden said the tragedy was “unthinkable for any parent”.
“I know the family circle very well,” said Declan McAlinden, who is of no relation.
“I spoke to David earlier and he is devastated. It’s hard to come to terms with the fact that within a couple of hours of seeing him in the morning before going out to school and work, you get that phone call in the evening.”
Declan McAlinden, an SDLP councillor in Craigavon, also expressed his sympathies to the train driver.
There were seven passengers on the train, with the incident happening on the line between Portadown and Lisburn.
Residents of the village of Magheralin said they were numbed by the tragedy.
One woman said: “The wee boy’s family is very well known round here, they are good people. It is awful news.”
Police are currently examining the circumstances of Christopher’s death. A post-mortem examination was due to be carried out yesterday.
SDLP Upper Bann MLA Dolores Kelly expressed her sadness at the death.
Mrs Kelly said: “My thoughts and prayers are with this young lad’s family.”
Craigavon deputy mayor, UUP member Colin McCusker, also offered his sympathy to the family and added: “I’d like to urge people to remember that railway tracks are very, very dangerous.”