Tributes to 'dedicated' firefighter
A long-serving firefighter who collapsed and died shortly after extinguishing a blaze has been described by his commander as a "dedicated and popular" crew member.
Nial Hamilton, 44, fell ill after tackling a fire in the Kilwilkee estate in Lurgan, Co Armagh, last night.
The married father of two from Enniskillen, Co Fermanagh, was part of a crew from Lurgan fire station that was called to deal with a burning car at around 9.30pm.
The blaze was brought under control in just over 10 minutes. Mr Hamilton, who had been a firefighter for 24 years, collapsed at the scene shortly afterwards. Colleagues gave immediate first aid and requested an ambulance.
He was treated at the scene by paramedics and was taken by ambulance to Craigavon Area Hospital but could not be saved. The circumstances of the death are being investigated by the Fire Service and a post mortem is being carried out.
The fireman is survived by his wife Ruth and their two young sons, Alex and Rory.
Mr Hamilton's area commander John Denvir said he and the rest of his colleagues were devastated by the death
"Our thoughts are with his wife and sons, his family circle and his many friends and colleagues," he said.
"Nial was a dedicated Firefighter, a very popular member of our team and he had a very promising career ahead of him. He will be greatly missed by everyone who knew him."
Chris Kerr, chief fire officer with the Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service (NIFRS), said: "Today is an extremely sad day for NIFRS and our wider Fire Service family as we mourn the sudden and untimely death of our much respected colleague Firefighter Nial Hamilton who died while on operational duty last night.
"Our thoughts are very much with Nial's wife Ruth and their two young sons, Alex and Rory, at this difficult time."
Mr Kerr added: "I would like to pay tribute to Nial's colleagues who gave immediate first aid and requested an ambulance. Nial was treated at the scene by paramedics and was taken by ambulance to Craigavon Area Hospital and despite the best efforts of all the medical staff he tragically later died."
Jim Wallace, chief executive of the NIFRS, added: "On behalf of everyone in NIFRS and on behalf of the NIFRS Board we send our deepest condolences and sympathy to Nial's wife and sons, his family, friends and colleagues at this very sad time. Northern Ireland Fire & Rescue Service is a very close knit organisation and today we are all feeling the pain and loss of Nial's death. We have offered his family our full support at this very difficult time."
Mr Hamilton became a firefighter in 1990, serving initially in Cadogan and Knock Fire Stations in Belfast before moving to Lurgan fire station.
The NIFRS flag was today being flown at half-mast at all NIFRS premises and a minute silence was held at NIFRS headquarters in Belfast.
Fire Brigades Union general secretary Matt Wrack passed on his condolences on behalf of the wider fire service community.
"I know all Fire Brigades Union members will join me in sending condolences to Nial's family, friends and colleagues at this difficult time," he said.
"The FBU has already taken steps to ensure that advice and assistance is provided to Nial's family as necessary."
Stormont's Health and Public Safety Minister Edwin Poots paid tribute to Mr Hamilton.
"I was greatly saddened to hear of the tragic death of the firefighter and extend my deepest sympathies to his family and friends at this extremely difficult time," he said.
"The NI Ambulance Service responded promptly to this emergency and the paramedics are to be commended for their work to treat the firefighter at the scene. I understand that Fire Service colleagues also gave emergency first aid in an effort to save him.
"Our firefighters are highly committed, doing an extremely difficult job. We are all very grateful for the fearless work that they do on a daily basis."