Rising star of boxing ring Stephen Sweeney (19) killed in crash 'was full of joy and always smiling'
Emotional tributes have been paid to a young rising boxing star who died in a car crash.
Stephen Sweeney from Newcastle, Co Down, was killed in the one-vehicle smash yesterday shortly after 1am.
The 19-year-old was driving a silver Volkswagen Passat that left the Ballagh Road – the main coastal road between Newcastle and Annalong – on Friday morning.
The former Shimna Integrated College pupil was just finishing his studies at Downpatrick Technical College and was a valued member of the Mourne All Blacks Amateur Boxing Club.
Stephen had been in the boxing club since he was 13 and wanted to pursue a career in the sport.
Club manager Patrick Quinn paid tribute to him and said he was "one of the most dedicated" members he had ever had in the club.
Mr Quinn said: "He had a good career ahead because he was a very dedicated wee lad.
"He was going to go in to the Ulster Intermediates in October.
"He beat the Irish champion about three years ago in the Armagh final.
"He had about 50 fights and he won about 41 of them."
Mr Quinn came across the crash yesterday when the road was blocked off as he was travelling to Belfast, but was not aware it was Stephen who had been involved.
He said: "He was a very quiet, lovely wee fella, who was liked by everybody.
"I would say he was one of the most dedicated fellas I've ever had in the club, as well as being the quietest.
"He was definitely a rising star."
One of Stephen's best friends – on behalf of "all the boys at Downpatrick Technical College" – paid an emotional tribute to him.
Cory Gibson (19) told the Belfast Telegraph: "What can I say; from the day and hour I met Stephen he never had a smile off his face.
"Always cheerful and full of joy. Stephen put everyone first, he had such a big heart.
"I will cherish every moment we had together from nights out to working together... well, bluffing together, and having the craic the last three years in Tech.
"I'll put all these memories in to my heart forever."
Principal of Shimna Integrated College Kevin Lambe said Stephen would be "fondly remembered" by everyone who knew him and offered its "deepest sympathy" to his family and friends.
Police say they are keen to speak to any witnesses or anyone who was travelling on the Ballagh Road at around 1am. They can be contacted on 101.
Stephen Sweeney is the 58th person to die on Northern Ireland's roads this year. The death of the 19-year-old brings the death toll so far on the roads to one more than the whole of last year. Police have issued warnings following the upsurge of fatal crashes on the roads. In July this year four people were killed in the space of 24 hours. A graphic campaign by the DoE has highlighted the fact that 28 children have been killed by speeding since 2000.