Belfast Telegraph

Northern Ireland family bereft after suspected arson destroys crystal business

By Allan Preston

The owner of a family business that has been trading for almost 40 years has spoken of his heartbreak after his premises were burnt to the ground.

The fire at the Belfast Crystal factory on Blackstaff Road the in Kennedy Way industrial estate was reported on Saturday shortly after 6pm.

The Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service said the blaze was well-developed when its personnel arrived at the scene.

A total of 41 firefighters, seven appliances, one high-reach aerial appliance and a specialist command support unit were needed to bring the flames under control.

Police say they are treating the blaze as suspicious.

Speaking to the Belfast Telegraph yesterday, owner Tony Abbate (50) condemned the suspected arson as a "senseless act" that had devastated his family.

The business was founded in 1978 by his father Antonio, who had moved to Belfast from Italy and whose grandchildren worked at the firm, seeing it cross into a third generation.

"Next year would have been our 40th as a family business," Mr Abbate said.

"I'm there 32 years, my dad for 40.

"He's 83 and he stills goes into work every single day. It's his whole life, it's what he gets up for and lives for."

Any hopes Mr Abbate had that he could salvage something were dashed yesterday.

"I went down at 6am this morning and there's nothing left in the place I can work with or sell, nothing.

"It means I'm unemployed and I've not one single penny coming in next week. After 40 years of building it and reinvesting, it was my pension and savings. Every penny I had was put into it, but it's gone."

He said he felt sympathy for those losing their jobs, adding: "I'm in the same boat."

He added that the specialist machinery used for cutting and designing the glass products was irreplaceable as it was no longer manufactured.

"I woke up this morning saying: 'Please let it be a bad dream'. It's just so hard, everybody's just devastated," Mr Abbate said.

While no one was physically injured, he added: "It's hurting my father, he's in pieces. You can just tell in his voice. I just hope it doesn't have a detrimental effect on him.

"The only thing that kept him going after my mum died was going to work. He was there this morning and the police officer said he was absolutely devastated."

Mr Abbate said forensics officers told him the fire started outside.

PSNI Sergeant Tom Donnelly appealed for anyone who noticed suspicious activity to contact police at Woodbourne on the 101 number, quoting reference 1048.

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