Belfast Telegraph

Crash victim's mum Betty Stewart hails public for helping ease agony

by allan preston

A mother who lost two sons to road crashes 12 years apart has said that the outpouring of community support "has given our family strength we never knew we had".

Neil Stewart (49), a father-of-six from Markethill, died near Newry on Saturday at around 7pm when his motorcycle collided with another vehicle on the Tandragee Road between Poyntzpass and Jerrettspass in Co Amagh.

His wife Sandra, a pillion passenger, was hospitalised with serious injuries.

Mr Stewart's brother Howard died 12 years earlier in a crash not far from the scene.

Speaking to the Ulster Gazette, his mother Betty Stewart said she had wished Neil a happy 49th birthday just days before his death. "I was able to give him his present, card and a big hug and that was the last time I saw my son alive," she explained.

"As a family, we are just devastated."

Mr Stewart had served in Iraq with the Territorial Army, having been encouraged by his late brother.

His interests included playing drums with the John Hunter Accordion band, as well as martial arts.

Jay Faulkner, chief instructor with the Armagh-based Imperial Dragon Kung Fu club, was a close friend.

"He was at such a level I was comfortable leaving him in charge of the class with my own two children, that was the level of trust and respect I had for him," said Mr Faulkner.

"He was a gentleman, always smiling and friendly. All the time I knew him and his family there was never a cross word, he was always patient and kind with the students.

"All of the children, including my own, just adored him."

Mr Faulkner said the club hoped to hold its own tribute in due course.

Mr Stewart's funeral takes place on Friday at 1pm, with a service of thanksgiving and interment at Ballenon Reformed Presbyterian Church in Poyntzpass.

Two other funerals will also be held today for crash victims who died at the weekend.

Steven Sunstrum (19), from east Belfast, died on Saturday after being injured in a crash last Wednesday.

His funeral is at Roselawn Crematorium at 1pm.

A family notice said that they would miss his "smile and giggles with every day that passes".

The family also requested that any donations would be made to the intensive care unit at the Royal Victoria Hospital, Belfast.

Co Tyrone mechanic Stephen Wilkinson (26) died after being knocked down in Cookstown in the early hours of Sunday. The 26-year-old male driver of the car was arrested by police, and later released on bail.

Described as the "Dearly loved son of Sharon and Christopher and much loved brother of of Ryan", his funeral Mass takes place today at 11am at the Church of the Blessed Sacrament at Mullinahoe Road, with interment in the adjoining cemetery.

So far this year 47 people have lost their lives on Northern Ireland's roads.

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