The family of the Portuguese man who is fighting for his life following a horrific car crash are struggling to cope with the deaths of his four friends.
While Paulo Branco remained critically ill in Belfast’s Mater Hospital last night he was showing some positive signs, said community worker Stephen Smith.
“We are very pleased that he is making progress. Although his injuries are very severe there are good, positive signs,” he said.
Mr Branco’s four friends and work colleagues, all from the same area of Portugal, lost their lives in a weekend crash when the car they had rented collided head-on with a lorry at a bend on the Tandragee Road in Newry.
The five were on their way to visit Mr Branco’s family in Portadown and buy some Portuguese food.
The four men have been named as Pedro Tavares (34) from Sever do Vouga, Ricardo Alves from Aveiro, Martinho de Almeida (45) from Castrro Daire, and Luis Miguel Lopes (33) from Oliveira do Hospital.
All five were working at Portuguese company Martifer which is carrying out work at Dublin Airport and employs more than 100 Portuguese workers in Dublin.
Mr Branco and his family arrived in Northern Ireland about five years ago seeking a new life after facing financial problems at home, Mr Smith said.
“He worked here up until last year when he went in search of work elsewhere. He got work as a subcontractor in Dublin in June,” he said.
“His wife volunteers in a support group locally and they are held in high esteem by the local community. Paulo was up every weekend, making a weekly trip to pick up some Portuguese food and she would go down there occasionally.”
Mr Branco’s wife remains badly shaken by the accident and the reality of losing four friends is beginning to sink in, Mr Smith said.
“That reality is beginning to dawn on her now. It was very fortunate that Paulo survived but his friends have all died. She is in mourning because of them and is certainly concerned for her husband and all implications of that in the future.”
Mr Branco’s wife is accompanied by her 15-year-old daughter, and her 6-year-old son is due to return from a holiday visiting his grandparents this weekend.
A number of the victims had been planning to visit their homes in Portugal in the next few weeks.