Bus driver dies at home hours after running Belfast Marathon
A Translink bus driver has died hours after running the Belfast Marathon in aid of his daughter’s school.
Colleagues and friends of Eric Watson described the Newtownards man as a dedicated father and husband.
The bus driver, who was in his early 50s, took part in Monday’s Belfast Marathon as part of a relay effort with colleagues from Newtownards bus station, where he worked as a bus driver for nearly 10 years.
The team were raising funds for St Finian’s Primary School in the town, which is attended by Mr Watson’s seven-year-old daughter.
On Monday evening, hours after completing his relay effort, he died at his home in the Ringhaddy area of the town.
It is understood Mr Watson — who is thought to be originally from Sydenham in east Belfast — collapsed at home after his mixed relay team came home in a time of 4:26:51.
He leaves behind his wife, Maria, and their two daughters, the youngest being three.
Hugh O’Prey, headmaster of St Finian’s Primary School, who has visited Mr Watson’s devastated family, said he was a loving father and highly respected. He said: “Eric was a dedicated family man who went out of his way to help others. He will be sadly missed by the entire school community.
“The thoughts and prayers of the school community are with Eric’s family at this sorrowful time,” he added.
Richard Hudson, service delivery manager at Newtownards Translink station, said: “All the workers here have obviously taken it very hard.
“Eric was very popular and very well-liked. He was very willing to help any of his colleagues in any circumstances.
“He was a nice guy, basically.”
He added: “We would like to extend our sympathies to his family.” Mr Watson’s death comes weeks after Claire Squires collapsed and died after suffering a heart attack while running last month’s London marathon.
A charity fundraising web page set up by the 30-year-old hairdresser raised more than £1m in less than a week — with tens of thousands of people logging on from all over the world to leave donations.
Yesterday Strangford MP Jim Shannon said the circumstances of Mr Watson’s death were particularly poignant.
He said: “Whenever someone sets out to run the marathon to raise money, with all the good will that it entails, you never, ever think that the result will be that they pass away.”
He added: “Everyone liked Eric.
“He loved his children, and his children love him.
“The whole family are grieving, and we want to ensure that they understand they are in our thoughts and prayers.”
Yesterday a spokeswoman for Translink said: “Our colleague Eric Watson, an Ulsterbus driver based in Newtownards, passed away at his home last (Monday) night.
“We would like to extend our sympathies to his wife, children, family circle and to his co-workers at Ards Ulsterbus depot.”