Grief-hit son pays moving tribute to M1 crash victim Maureen Buchanan
The son of an 80-year-old woman who died in a six-vehicle crash on the M1 on Friday has said his mother was a church-going woman who loved singing and "lived her life serving people".
Peter Buchanan (52) told the Belfast Telegraph the family were "hanging together" after the tragedy.
"It literally was a shock," said Peter. "You're always at some stage going to get that phone call in life that someone is going to pass away, but whenever it's an accident it's just that unreal period where the police arrive at your door."
He said the family were taking comfort from their happy memories of Maureen.
"My mum was loved by many, many people and she was a Christian woman who lived her life serving people.
"Today, it has just been a real comfort to all the family to know that she is peaceful and at rest, and that was the most important thing for us today.
"She had a big influence in our lives, it's just that peace that has brought us all joy."
Maureen lived on Hyndford Street in east Belfast with her late husband David, just a few doors from where Van Morrison grew up.
"My grandfather was a great musician and my mum loved singing," recalled Peter.
"She sang for many years in the Belfast ladies choir, going back 30 or 40 years.
"She would have toured all over the country giving performances for various things and it was a huge part of her life, right to the very end."
Maureen started her working life in the Belfast Telegraph as a proof reader, where she stayed until 1959 before leaving to raise a family.
Her daughter Lynn was born in 1959, followed by Peter in 1964.
"She took various domestic jobs to make ends meet," explained Peter.
"As we grew up she was just the best mother in the world; loved us, cared for us and made sure we had everything while my dad and her went without."
She later worked as a domestic in the Garnerville police training centre in the late 1970s and early 1980s.
Retiring 25 years ago, her family, singing and her commitment to her church - Bloomfield Presbyterian - stayed with her.
After caring for her parents and then her husband David until his death 12 years ago, she also enjoyed a close relationship with her grandchildren Hollie (28), who works as an English teacher in St Petersburg, and Jonathan (25), a barista in New Zealand.
"The relationship with her grandkids was very special.," said Peter. "She had a real affiliation with young people. Hollie and Jonathan just loved her to bits and she loved them to bits. But she also would have ruled them with a wee rod of iron."
Peter finished by saying: "My mum in her 80 years, her whole life has been spent working in Bloomfield Presbyterian Church. This was her 80th year of being in Bloomfield, and not too many others could say that."
Just before 5.30pm on Friday Maureen was in the back seat of a car travelling between Moira and Lurgan on the M1. Six vehicles became involved in the collision that ended her life. The PSNI closed part of the M1 on both sides to investigate, causing traffic chaos for thousands of drivers.
Many were delayed for over three hours before the road was finally reopened at 2.30am on Saturday.
There was criticism of how the police handled the disruption, with some saying they had failed to properly communicate with the public to tell them to avoid the area.
By 10.30pm on Friday a tweet was issued to say: "We apologise for the delay, but it is our priority to ensure all vehicles are taken off the motorway safely."
However Maureen Buchanan's son in law, the Rev John 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.”
He added: “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.”