Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 21 September 2014

Top civil servant who drowned while fishing was a 'true gentleman'

Stanley Duncan (57) was chief executive of the Driver and Vehicle Agency (DVA)
Stanley Duncan (57) was chief executive of the Driver and Vehicle Agency (DVA)
The harbour in Portstewart Derry where senior civil servant Stan Duncan was brought to after falling into the sea on Tuesday night. Picture: Margaret McLaughlin
The harbour in Portstewart Derry where senior civil servant Stan Duncan was brought to after falling into the sea on Tuesday night. Picture: Margaret McLaughlin
Coleraine Coastguard at the scene in Portstewart
Coleraine Coastguard at the scene in Portstewart

A senior civil servant who died after falling from his fishing spot on Northern Ireland's north coast was a true gentleman, a close colleague said.

Stanley Duncan (57) from Comber in Co Down, oversaw driver and vehicle licensing and worked in the civil service for 36 years. The married father of two daughters was on rocks close to Portstewart harbour when he went into the bitterly cold Atlantic.

He was rescued by lifeboat after two fellow fishermen managed to stop him from being swept away but died later in Causeway Hospital.

He helped young people and the elderly at home and abroad through his church work and fellow civil servants, church leaders and MLAs paid warm tributes.

Trevor Evans, a director at the Driver and Vehicle Agency (DVA), said: "He was extremely dedicated to his work, his family and his church and he had the energy and a capacity for work that always left me in awe."

Mr Duncan was in the DVA since 1995. He became its chief executive in 2003 and senior staff said he was totally committed to achieving the best for his staff and customers.

Environment Minister Alex Attwood said: "He knew the importance and value of the work of the DVA, in particular the DVA centre in Coleraine. He was committed to the DVA and committed to the public service."

Mr Evans added: "Stanley was simply one of life's true gentlemen.

"I have had the good fortune to work with some lovely people over 40 years but no one was nicer than Stanley Duncan."

According to Chris Little, head of Coleraine's coastguard station, nobody saw him going into the water last night while fishing from rocks.

He was heard falling in by two nearby fishermen who went to his assistance. They reached into the water and managed to pull him onto the back of the rocks where they held him while another person sought help. The lifeboat arrived in less than ten minutes.

Mr Little said there were popular fishing spots along the north coast but proportionately few incidents like yesterday's. He urged those fishing to use lifejackets and be aware of the risk from waves and the slippery surroundings.

Mr Duncan had been at rocks close to Victoria Terrace in Portstewart. Mr Little said it seemed likely that, for some reason, he fell in.

The Coleraine Coastguard Rescue Team, the RNLI inshore lifeboat from Portrush, Portstewart RNLI beach lifeguards and the Irish Coast Guard search and rescue helicopter from Sligo were sent to the scene but he died in hospital.

The public servant enjoyed a glittering career. Before reaching the top of the DVA he worked in personnel, the Northern Ireland Assembly, the Water Service and transport division.

He was a youth leader in his church and played an active role in a project in Albania. The public servant leaves behind his parents, his wife Wendy and his daughters Ruth and Victoria.

SDLP MLA John Dallat said of Mr Duncan: "I always found him to be a gentleman, thoroughly caring, professional and committed to the work he was doing.

"His death is a reminder of the unpredictability of the sea and the potential dangers to those who enjoy it for recreational use."

He had been a member of the Crescent Church in Belfast for many years and worked with youths and the elderly.

David Farrell, church secretary, said: "He was a man who always had a positive word to say about everything, he was a great encourager, he was a man who saw the best in everything."

NIPSA assistant departmental secretary Michael Robinson said staff were shocked and saddened.

"As well as being a dedicated and professional civil servant, Stanley was blessed with a warmth and humanity that never left him," he added.

Three DUP former environment ministers, Arlene Foster, Edwin Poots and Sammy Wilson, paid tribute.

"We always found Stanley to be a very reliable and honourable man and he will be greatly missed by all those who came into contact with him.

"His death also reminds us all of the dangers of the sea and the need to take care around it."

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