Belfast Telegraph

Second tragedy for Stewart family as biker Neil and pedestrian Stephen Wilkinson latest victims on Northern Ireland's roads

By Cate McCurry

A Co Armagh family has been plunged into mourning again after a second brother died in a road crash.

Motorcyclist Neil Stewart, a father-of-six, was killed in a collision near Newry that left his wife Sandra with serious injuries.

It is the second tragedy to hit the family after his brother Howard died in a crash in the same area a number of years ago.

Mr Stewart (49), a former Territorial Army soldier who served in Afghanistan, died on Saturday evening.

Less than 12 hours later Co Tyrone man Stephen Wilkinson was knocked down and killed in Cookstown.

And east Belfast teenager Steven Sunstrum succumbed to his injuries in hospital on Saturday following a road accident on Wednesday.

It brings the number of people to die on our roads this year to 47.

Mr Stewart's death prompted a number of online tributes as his family struggled to come to terms with the loss of another brother.

The father to two daughters and four sons was travelling on Tandragee Road with his wife when they were involved in a crash at around 7pm on Saturday.

Mrs Stewart is recovering in hospital with non-life-threatening injuries.

Ulster Unionist councillor Jim Speers, who knows the family, described Mr Stewart's death as a "devastating blow".

"It's a terrible tragedy and a blow to anyone who loses a family member through a road accident," he said.

"This is the second one to hit the family, it's a double tragedy.

"It's incredible, and one can't even think how a family could attempt to deal with such a devastating blow.

"The prayers and thoughts of the community are with the family at such a time like this."

Mr Stewart was a member of the Reformed Presbyterian Church near his home in Markethill.

His minister Rev Philip Murphy said: "It has been a devastating blow, not only for his own congregation but other congregations within the denomination.

"He spent two weeks of the summer on a relief team that went to Romania to do work for a women's refugee centre along with 40 other people.

"Everyone is devastated, they can't take it in."

Meanwhile, tributes have been paid to 26-year-old Mr Wilkinson, a pedestrian who died after he was hit by a Ford Focus in Cookstown shortly before 3.30am yesterday.

The 26-year-old male driver of the car was arrested by police.

A local Sinn Fein councillor said Mr Wilkinson, a mechanic from nearby Ardboe, would be "sorely missed".

Ronan McGinley said: "These are tragic circumstances which are hard to believe. My thoughts are with his family and wide circle of friends.

"I knew him personally so I know he will be sorely missed by the entire community."

Ulster Unionist councillor Trevor Wilson also expressed his condolences.

"Like the rest of the Cookstown community, I was shocked to wake up to the news that another young life had been lost on our roads," he said.

"My thoughts and prayers are with the Wilkinson family at this desperately sad time and my deepest sympathies are with the family and his friends."

One online tribute said: "We are so sorry to wake up to such terrible news of the death of Stephen, our thoughts are with his family and (girlfriend) Bronagh. Thinking of you all at such a sad time."

A friend also wrote on social media: "Can't believe the news, rest in peace Stephen. Gone far too soon. One of the most nicest people I have ever known."

Mr Wilkinson is survived by his parents Sharon and Christopher and brother Ryan.

Police are appealing for anyone who witnessed the collision to contact the PSNI in Cookstown.

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