Tributes for racer killed in North West 200
The body of a road racer killed on the final day of racing at the North West 200 will today be returned to his native Scotland.
Mark Buckley died in hospital on Saturday afternoon following a horrific crash at York Corner, Portstewart during the Superstock race.
The funeral of the 35-year-old father-of-one will be held later this week after his remains are returned to his family.
Mervyn Whyte, event director of the North West 200, said he was devastated by the tragedy and will attend the ceremony.
He has also offered his sympathies to Buckley’s widow Jayne who had travelled to Northern Ireland to see her husband compete.
Buckley’s Splitlath Redmond team mates said he was an experienced road racer and “the North West 200 was one of his favourite events on the calendar”.
He had only joined the team last month and was due to compete in the Isle of Man TT races next month.
Paying tribute to the race ace, they described Buckley as “a rider who always had a smile on his face, a man who was always positive, with an infectious sense of humour and a rider who cared deeply about his colleagues and others”.
The world of racing has been left reeling from the tragedy that has overshadowed the success of the week-long festival that had attracted up to 100,000 visitors from around the world.
Former world superbike champion Carl Fogarty, who was at the North West, led tributes to Buckley (right).
Fogarty, who last competed at the event in 1993, said on Twitter: “A sad end to a great days racing .. the death of Mark Buckley. Thoughts with family and friends.”
Northern Ireland ace Jeremy McWilliams, who competed at this year’s North West, tweeted: “Very sad to hear that Mark Buckley has lost his life. Thoughts are with his family.”
Although devastated by the death, Buckley’s family insisted that Saturday’s wrap party to mark the end of the week-long festival went ahead.
The First and deputy First Ministers have also expressed their sadness at the death.
In a joint statement they said: “We are deeply saddened to hear of this tragic news.
“We understand that Mark was a regular competitor at the North West and we offer our deepest sympathy to his wife Jayne, his family and close friends. Our thoughts are with them at this difficult time.”
Sports Minister Caral Ni Chuilin said the circumstances of the tragedy would be investigated by the organisers of the race and the Motorcycle Union of Ireland.
“I would encourage all concerned to cooperate fully with that investigation,” she said.
“Encouraging organisers of road races to address public concerns about the safety of such events remains an important priority for me.”
Regional Development Minister Danny Kennedy and Health Minister Edwin Poots who attended the international road racing event also added their condolences.