Ian Simpson crash leaves close-knit community reeling
A cloud had descended on a close-knit County Antrim community at the weekend.
Road racer Ian Simpson was critically injured in a crash on Saturday just after 4pm, casting a dark shadow over the annual Race of Legends event in the town.
He was airlifted to the Royal Victoria Hospital in Belfast following the collision at Church Bend during the 400cc Supersport race.
It is thought that Ian suffered life-threatening head injuries as a result of the crash and his condition was critical, but last night he made a dramatic improvement and was moved from the Royal's intensive care to a high-dependency unit where his condition was described as 'stable'.
Ian is believed to be in his 40s, a father-of-one and due to marry his girlfriend Katrina Hartin, who is a hairdresser.
He and Katrina, who owns her own hair and beauty salon on Armoy's Main Street, are both from the village and are well known there.
No one in the private community wanted to speak publicly about Ian as a mark of respect for his family, who were keeping a bedside vigil over the weekend.
Afraid that his condition could worsen, friends and relatives said they would prefer to stay silent, but everyone in the small, rural village said that their thoughts were with Ian, Katrina and their young son.
Having produced some of Northern Ireland's finest road racers, Armoy's identity is tightly tied up in the sport.
But on Sunday the village was barely recognisable as the home of the aptly named Race of Legends.
The streets, which just 24 hours earlier had played host to hundreds of noisy, bright and powerful bikes, as well as tourists from all over the world, were quiet and still as the community reeled from the terrible accident.
Hardly a car passed through the village on Sunday afternoon and the only signs of life were in the Rook's Nest Pub on Armoy's Main Street.
Friends of Ian had gathered there hopeful for good news to arrive from Clerk of the Course Bill Kennedy, who had been to visit Ian.
Some of the men at the Rook's Nest expressed hope that calls for a dedicated air ambulance for Northern Ireland would be met in light of recent events.
Ian had to be transported by coastguard helicopter to George Best City Airport where he was met by an emergency ambulance, which took him to the Royal Victoria Hospital following the crash on the Glenshesk Road.
The road racing community have been petitioning for Northern Ireland's own air ambulance since the death of race medic Dr John Hinds, who was fatally injured at a Skerries 100 practice race in Dublin earlier this month.
Ian's accident happened on a particularly sharp turn about a mile into the course and around the same distance from the centre of Armoy.
The dramatic bend is overlooked by St Patrick's Church and surrounded by low, stone walls separating the tight corner from rolling fields.
It is not yet clear exactly what happened but the corner on the Glenshesk Road had been cleared of any sign of the crash.