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Slim's Healthy Kitchen boss in tribute to 'inspiring' trainee teacher killed in road crash

By Rachel Martin

Published 12/10/2015

Slim’s Healthy Kitchen
Slim’s Healthy Kitchen
Chris Rice
Slim’s Healthy Kitchen owner, Gary McIldowney

The proprietor of a Belfast restaurant chain has paid tribute to a young employee who died in a road accident as an "inspiring, genuine and loveable person."

Gary McIldowney, who runs Slim's Healthy Kitchen, described Chris Rice as "a character" and said his death had affected everyone he worked with.

The healthy eating chain boss also vowed to raise money in Chris' name for a charity chosen by the young employee's family.

Chris, who was in his 20s, died tragically following a collision between a car and tractor near his hometown of Killyleagh just days ago.

He worked at the Belfast eaterie while studying at Queen's University, Belfast, where he was a member of the rowing team .

The history and archaeology student had recently begun a teacher training placement at his former school, St Mary's Star of the Sea Primary in Killyleagh.

Mr Rice was the 56th person to die on Northern Ireland's roads this year.

The incident occurred on the Killyleagh Road near Saintfield shortly after 11am on Wednesday, October 7.

This weekend, Mr McIldowney announced plans to raise money for Macmillan Cancer Support in Chris' name.

Mr McIldowney explained that he had named the stores' juice of the week 'Carrot Top' as a jovial reference to Chris' ginger hair and added that all proceeds from the drink would be donated to Macmillan Cancer Support.

He said that Chris' family told friends who wished to fundraise in his name, that Macmilllan was their chosen charity, as it provides support for the illness which Chris' mother is believed to suffer from.

In a statement posted online, Mr McIldowney said: "Earlier this week we lost a member of the Slims family, a colleague and a friend.

"Hand on heart, I don't think I'll ever meet a more inspiring, genuine and loveable person like Chris, a model of positive attitude and perseverance.

"An immediate friend to everyone who had the pleasure of meeting him and an all round top bloke.

As a mark of respect and to allow staff to attend Chris' funeral, the chain's Lisburn Road store was closed on Saturday morning.

PSNI Inspector Lynsey Barr has appealed for anyone with any information to contact officers at the Collision Investigation Unit at Steeple on the police non-emergency number 101.

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