M1 fatality Maureen Buchanan (80) was a 'gracious, warm and friendly Christian lady'
An elderly woman who died following a road crash on the M1 on Friday has been paid tribute to by former MP Naomi Long.
Maureen Buchanan (80) died when a vehicle hit a tree after being involved in a six-car collision on the westbound carriageway of the motorway between Moira and Lurgan at around 5.30pm.
The pensioner is believed to be from east Belfast and attended Bloomfield Presbyterian Church.
East Belfast Alliance representative Naomi Long knew her and described her as a "gracious, warm and friendly Christian lady",
"Devastating news. Four ladies from Bloomfield Presbyterian were involved in the M1 crash," she said.
"Thoughts and prayers with Maureen's family - a gracious, warm and friendly Christian lady - as they deal with her loss.
"Thoughts also with Rosemary, Belle and Margaret who were injured. Sending them my prayers for a full recovery."
The accident caused gridlock on the arterial route after police closed the road to deal with the scene, with drivers trapped on the motorway for hours unable to move.
Emergency services rushed to the incident but the victim died at the scene.
A scar on the trunk of the tree on the verge where the vehicle hit it before rolling on its side could be clearly seen.
A Northern Ireland Ambulance Service spokesman said several emergency crews and a doctor rushed to the scene, and four people were subsequently taken to hospital with minor injuries.
The PSNI came in for criticism over its handling of the accident, with some drivers claiming there was a lack of communication with the public to advise them to avoid the area.
Police issued a tweet at around 10.30pm saying: "We apologise for the delay, but it is our priority to ensure all vehicles are taken off the motorway safely."
On Saturday police issued a full statement and said it was with "reluctance" that officers close any road.
Assistant Chief Constable Alan Todd appealed for any witnesses to come forward,
He said: "I would firstly like to extend my condolences to the family of the woman who died following the six vehicle road traffic collision yesterday evening.
“Police received a report of this road traffic collision shortly after 5.30pm yesterday, Friday, 8 April and immediately updated social media, media outlets and liaised with our partner agencies. Regular updates were issued to drivers and media throughout the evening.
"We are aware of the difficulties and frustration caused last night and the major delays and inconvenience caused to commuters and families trying to get home.
"It is with reluctance that we close any road, particularly a motorway during Friday evening rush hour however, following any fatal road traffic collision police have an obligation to carry out a full and thorough investigation into the exact circumstances of the collision and the scene must be closed in order for that investigation to take place.
“Following this incident police had to safely remove the traffic from the motorway. Due to the amount of vehicular traffic at this time of evening, this took a considerable amount of time.
"While we try to ensure that any disruption is kept to an absolute minimum, due to the location of this incident and the number of vehicles involved it was then necessary to close the motorway in both directions.
"Both lanes were reopened during the early hours of this morning.
"The motorway was obviously extremely busy at the time of the collision yesterday and we are keen to speak to drivers who may have witnessed what happened. Officers can be contacted on the non-emergency number 101.”
The westbound carriageway was closed between junction 9 Moira and junction 10 Lurgan and at one stage the eastbound carriageway was closed as well.
At around 9pm, almost four hours after the collision, one driver who managed to take an alternative route overlooking the M1 described the traffic there as "mental". Another motorist contacted the Belfast Telegraph to reveal that he was considering abandoning his vehicle in despair.
He said he felt the police could have kept people better informed to enable them to avoid using the M1.
A female driver spoke of "pandemonium" on the motorway as drivers tried to escape the chaos.
"Loads of people en masse decided to try to turn their cars around. It was scary - pandemonium," she said.
Jim McManus tweeted to say his epileptic, diabetic niece was trapped in the back-up of traffic and described the PSNI response to the situation as "awful".
Photographer Stephen Hamilton was attempting to make his way to Mourneview Park in Lurgan to photograph the Uefa Women's European Championship Qualifier between Northern Ireland the Czech Republic and ended up in the gridlock for almost five hours. The match was eventually postponed because of the delays. Another driver said police were slow to take action to deal with the knock-on effects of the M1 closure.
He said: "Spent three hours getting from Belfast to Moira due to this accident. What has made me furious was the non-appearance of PSNI officers directing traffic at the junction of Meeting Street and Main Street, ie the main set of traffic lights in the town.
"Sadly, the PSNI did not have the 'brains' (sorry for the language) to get officers to direct traffic at this junction and hence speed up traffic getting off that motorway during this road traffic accident.
"PSNI should be made accountable!"
The fatal accident was the most serious of four on the M1 yesterday, which all caused delays.