School mourning trainee teacher after car horror crash
A promising student who died in a road crash yesterday may have been driving to Queen's University to inquire about a course there, a school chaplain has said.
The victim was Chris Rice, who was in his 20s.
He died after his car was in a collision involving a tractor on the Killyleagh Road near Saintfield at around 11am.
Mr Rice, who was in the final year of a history and archaeology degree at Queen's, had recently begun a teacher training placement at his former school, St Mary's Star of the Sea Primary in Killyleagh.
School chaplain Father Eugene O'Neill praised Mr Rice as a "lovely, lovely guy".
"He was in his last year and had discovered in himself a real passion for teaching," said Fr O'Neill, who is also a governor of the school.
"In the estimation of the principal and the staff and myself as a governor, he had a natural aptitude for it and such a capacity for communicating with children.
"He had a huge amount of talent and a great gift", adding that Mr Rice had been a keen rower at Queen's.
The clergyman said it was Mr Rice's interest in teaching that had led him to leave school early yesterday to travel to Queen's.
Fr O'Neill said he believed Mr Rice had planned to inquire about the university's post graduate teacher training course.
"We'd hoped to have him the rest of the year, one day a week," he added.
Father O'Neill explained Mr Rice had come late to further education following a career as a chef.
"This is a huge loss to education, his family and his friends," he added.
Mr Rice was the 56th person to die on Northern Ireland's roads this year.
In the same period last year, 62 had died.
Councillor William Walker said his parents Lewis and Audrey were "very well-respected in the area" and extended his heartfelt sympathy to them.
Alliance councillor Patrick Brown said it was a "complete tragedy".