The principal of an east Belfast primary school has died following an accident at his home nearly three weeks ago.
David Hutchinson, headmaster of Elmgrove Primary School on the Beersbridge Road, died on Thursday afternoon.
The 51-year-old had been in a coma at the Royal Victoria Hospital in Belfast after he fell off a ladder at his home and suffered brain damage.
Mr Hutchinson was a popular figure in east Belfast and wider education circles.
He had only recently returned from a working holiday in Africa.
Yesterday pupils, parents and well-wishers arrived at the school carrying floral tributes and poignant messages, which they attached to the school gates.
A green sweatshirt bearing the school crest and carrying the message ‘RIP Hutchinson, now at rest’, clearly rendered by a child’s hand, was among the tributes — which also included children’s drawings of the popular principal.
Eleven-year-old William Craig was among pupils who came to pay his respects to the late headmaster, leaving one of the many floral bouquets.
Belfast councillor Jim Rodgers described him as a “real gentleman” and said his death was a “dreadful tragedy”.
Mr Rodgers added: “He was a man highly respected by staff, pupils and parents.
“He was a real gentleman and did a great job at Elmgrove Primary School.
“This is a major blow to his
family and to education in east Belfast.
“My deep sympathy, thoughts and prayers are with his family circle.”
Mr Hutchinson is survived by his wife Alison, principal of Harmony Primary School in north Belfast, and two children.
East Belfast MP Naomi Long said: “He was very well-loved in the area — a really lively guy and very committed to the school and kids.
“It’s a tragedy for the family. I am thinking about them.”
Notable alumni of the school Mr Hutchinson ran include former Northern Ireland football manager Billy Bingham.
During his 10 years at Elmgrove, Mr Hutchinson was a member of the Northern Ireland Primary Principals’ Action Group which represented around 500 primary schools who lobbied the Northern Ireland Assembly for improved funding of the sector.
One-time chair of the East Belfast Primary and Nursery Principals' Group, Mr Hutchinson took part in presentations to the Assembly’s education committee to help hammer home the importance of investing in the early years of education.