Congregation grieves for M1 crash victim Maureen Buchanan and pray for two injured friends
A church community in east Belfast coming to terms with the death of 80-year-old Maureen Buchanan after a crash on the M1 are still praying anxiously for two other injured friends.
Margaret Ball, Belle Heaney and Rosemary Cowan were in the car with Maureen on Friday and were travelling to Newry for a ladies' weekend organised by Bloomfield Presbyterian Church.
Ms Ball is still in a critical condition in the Royal Victoria Hospital, while Ms Heaney is in a stable condition in Craigavon Hospital.
Ms Cowan has been discharged from hospital.
Frank Sellar, Minister for Bloomfield Presbyterian, said he understood a car had changed lanes in front of them suddenly and "there was nothing they could do" to avoid crashing.
Police are still investigating the incident and have not confirmed what caused the six-car collision. An appeal is ongoing for witnesses of the crash which took place on the M1 close to the Cornakinnegar Bridge between Moira and Lurgan around 5.35pm on Friday.
Mr Sellar said the church community had been a great support in the aftermath of the tragedy.
At a recent Sunday service all four women had joined in celebrations for 14 young members who had made a public profession of their faith.
He said tears of joy had been shed on that occasion, but so quickly after there were tears of sorrow for Maureen, Margaret, Belle and Rosemary.
"This is where church community comes into its own in a way that's hard to imagine anywhere else," he said.
Rev John Coulter, who is married to Maureen's daughter Lynn, commented: "They're all three lovely Christian woman who are great friends and are undoubtedly devastated at the passing of Maureen plus their own involvement in the accident. Our thoughts and prayers are with them for a speedy recovery."
After the crash on Friday the PSNI received criticism for its handling of the traffic situation. Thousands of drivers were delayed with many stuck on the M1 for over three hours. Many complained the police failed to properly communicate the situation to the public.
However, Rev Coulter praised the police for the care they showed his family following the loss of Maureen. "Two young police officers came to break the news to us on Friday night, they handled it very tactfully and very sensitively. The police liaison officer has really went out of his way to make sure we were fully informed and properly looked after and we're really appreciative of his efforts.
"I understand the police were getting a fair bit of criticism, but that wasn't our experience of how they handled a very difficult job."
Maureen was the 16th person to die on Northern Ireland roads this year, just one day later 19-year-old Lesley-Ann McCarragher was fatally injured in a hit-and-run crash on the Monaghan Road in Co Armagh.