Environment Minister Edwin Poots has paid tribute to Co Down farmer Stephen Stewart (37) who lost his life in a tragic tractor accident early on Saturday morning.
The father-of-one from Dromara was the fifth person to lose their life on Northern Ireland’s roads this year. He was yards from home when his tractor overturned in the early hours of the morning.
He had been driving along the Banbridge Road at around 4am when he got into difficulty. The tractor was the only vehicle involved in the accident.
Mr Poots, a friend of the family, visited to pay his condolences on Saturday. Stephen’s brother Paul is an aide to Mr Poots and Lagan Valley MP Jeffrey Donaldson.
The minister described Stephen as a very hard working person who loved his young daughter dearly.
“The family are in a bad way, naturally enough,” he said.
“I’ve known the Stewart family for a considerable period. As a family they are very well known in the Dromara and Ballynahinch areas. It is a shock to the entire community that this has happened.
“I was there yesterday and there was a constant stream of callers to express their sympathies with the family.
“This is another tragic bereavement on our roads and another young life that has been cut short.”
Over the weekend, police warned motorists to drive carefully after wintry weather caused dangerous conditions in some areas.
Stephen’s brother Paul said the family were putting it down as a “tragic accident”.
“The roads were bad enough but we are putting this down as a tragic accident. But we have a strong family circle and a good pastor which we are taking comfort in,” Mr Stewart told Sunday Life.
“Time is a great healer and our faith will help.”
Meanwhile, three people died in crashes in Co Donegal over a 15-hour period.
Among the dead were a father and son from Ramelton, who died in a two-vehicle collision on the Letterkenny to Derry road at 10.10am on Saturday.
The pair, named locally as John Gallagher (55) and his son Sean (24), were killed when their Ford Mondeo collided with a Skoda Octavia at the junction of Slab Road, Burt.
The 59-year-old female driver of the Skoda was taken to Letterkenny Hospital, where she was described as being in a stable condition.
On Friday in Donegal, a pedestrian was struck by a car at about 19.40pm in Carrigart. The 60-year-old male, named as Billy Boyce from Carrigart, died on his way to hospital.