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Firefighters hail colleague who died in crash as 'greatly admired' and 'a selfless hero'

By Amanda Ferguson

Published 03/12/2015

A1 victim Eugene McNally
A1 victim Eugene McNally
Loved ones and former colleagues form a guard of honour around his hearse last night
Loved ones and former colleagues form a guard of honour around his hearse last night

Tributes have been paid to a retired firefighter following his death in a car crash on the A1.

Eugene McNally, who was in his 50s, died on Tuesday evening after a two-vehicle collision on the main road between Belfast and Newry.

The father and grandfather had been based at Newry Fire Station and had worked for the Northern Ireland Fire & Rescue Service for over 32 years.

The Laurencetown man is survived by wife Christine, children Linzi, Laura and Paul and wider family.

NIFRS paid tribute to its former watch commander.

Southern area commander John Denvir said: "Our thoughts are with Eugene's family at this very sad time.

"We were all deeply saddened about his death.

"Eugene was a well-respected colleague who was greatly admired for his dedication to the Northern Ireland Fire & Rescue Service."

He added: "Eugene was well-known within the local area, so his death will be greatly felt across the community.

"It's a very sad day for our station and the organisation."

"We will always remember him for his work within the local community and his commitment to helping others.

"Eugene was also a very keen cyclist, who helped to raise money for many local charities in the area.

"Eugene was heavily involved in the recent cycling event which was held at Lurgan Fire Station in memory of a former colleague.

"His kind-hearted manner made him an extremely popular firefighter at Newry Fire Station."

The sadness resulting from Mr McNally's untimely death is being felt throughout the organisation.

"Firefighters across Northern Ireland work very closely together - we're like family - so news like this impacts everyone," Mr Denvir added.

"Eugene was a husband, father and esteemed colleague.

"He will be greatly missed."

A spokesman for the Northern Ireland Fire Brigades Union offered its condolences to Mr McNally's family and friends.

"Eugene had been a former Fire Brigades Union representative and was highly thought of by all his colleagues," he added.

Newry and Armagh MLA Dominic Bradley said that the community has been "stunned and deeply saddened by Eugene's death".

"Eugene was a man who served this community faithfully over many years as a member of the Fire and Rescue Service," Mr Bradley said.

"On many occasions he put his own life on the line to save the lives of others and that only serves to underline the tragedy of his death in a road accident.

"He has been involved in many charitable and community events and gave of his time selflessly, in order that others be remembered and respected."

He added: "On behalf of the community here in Newry, I want to express my deep sorrow to his immediate family and wide circle of friends."

Mr McNally's funeral is expected to take place on Saturday at St Colman's Church, Laurencetown, with burial afterwards in the adjoining cemetery.

Police are appealing for witnesses to the crash which happened at around 5.30pm on Monday. Two other men in their 30s were taken to hospital, but their injuries are not believed to be life-threatening.

PSNI Inspector Stephen Humphries said: "A silver Mazda 3 and blue Volkswagen Caddy were involved in the collision.

"I would ask anyone who witnessed those vehicles in the area before the road traffic collision to contact Ardmore police station or the collision investigation unit at Sprucefield on non-emergency number 101."

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