Belfast Telegraph

Tributes to Syrian dentist Mahfouz Balid who died in Lisburn cycling road incident

By Laura Abernethy

Tributes have been paid to a "kind and generous" Syrian man died after he was hit by a lorry as he cycled to work in Lisburn on Wednesday.

Mahfouz Balid (47) arrived in Northern Ireland a year ago to join his wife and four children after they fled the war-torn city of Aleppo.

His wife Abir and their four children arrived in 2013. The family were able to secure Irish passports as Abir's mother was born in Belfast. Mr Balid had secured a visa to join his family.

He had worked for over 20 years as a dentist and he had recently been the subject of a fundraising appeal to help him raise the £6,000 needed to sit a UK certified dentistry examination.

He had found work at a nearby blinds factory to support the family while they saved for the exams.

He was cycling to work on Wednesday when he was involved in a collision with a lorry at around 2.25pm. He died at the scene.

Family friend Raied Al-Wazzan, speaking on behalf of his family, said: "He was one of the most generous people I've met. He was a family man and was very hardworking. There aren't really words to describe him.

"To lose a friend like that is very difficult. His children are very distressed and it's very hard for them."

"The family have been receiving lots of support from the Muslim community, the Arab community and the local people of Lisburn."

Councillor Robbie Butler, who visited the family on Thursday, said that the family are "heartbroken but coping" and added: "On behalf of the greater Lisburn community, I want to offer my condolences and any help or assistance, be that financial, practical or whatever. The community will rally round them and help."

Inspector Collins said: "I would ask anyone who would have seen the cyclist or the lorry in the area to contact Lisburn Police Station or the Collision Investigation Unit at Steeple Police Station on the non-emergency number 101."

Lagan Valley MLA Paul Given said he is outraged that the outcome "may have been very different" if planned road improvements had been carried out.

"I have had three ministerial meetings about this junction in the past few years about this very dangerous junction," he said.

"That junction is one that should have been upgraded years ago, but because of a dispute between Roads Service and the planning service, it hasn't been, it's a hugely dangerous road.

"I find it outrageous and deeply upsetting."

He said that one of the planning conditions for recent housing developments was the improvement to a number of roads, including the scene of the accident.

He added that just two weeks ago he held a meeting to raise the dangers of the road.

"There is a dispute over the standard of the improvements to the junction," he added, blaming a "lengthy, bureaucratic" wrangle for lack of action.

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