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Prodigy star hailed by Northern Ireland road racers 'as one of the good guys'

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Keith Flint on stage with The Prodigy at Slane Castle, Co Meath, in 2009

Keith Flint on stage with The Prodigy at Slane Castle, Co Meath, in 2009

Keith Flint with DUP leader Arlene Foster

Keith Flint with DUP leader Arlene Foster

Keith Flint with Co Antrim road racer Andy Reid

Keith Flint with Co Antrim road racer Andy Reid

Keith Flint on stage with The Prodigy at Slane Castle, Co Meath, in 2009

He will be remembered as the firestarter of dance culture's jilted generation - but the late Prodigy singer Keith Flint has also been recalled as "one of the good guys" by two top Northern Ireland road racers.

Flint (49) was found dead by police at his home in Dunmow, Essex, at around 8am yesterday.

His bandmate Liam Howlett later claimed he had taken his own life.

Having sold 25 million albums with The Prodigy, Flint also had a life-long passion for motorbike racing and helped start his own outfit, Team Traction Control, in 2014. They won four Isle of Man TT races and tasted success at the Ulster Grand Prix.

Racers Michael Laverty (37) from Toomebridge and Andy Reid (24) from Jordanstown got to know a different side to his wild onstage persona.

Michael said: "I first got to know him at the Isle of Man back in 2010.

"We were both there as guests of Suzuki. I did a parade lap of the course and I think he actually did one too.

"He always had a smile for everyone, he was one of the good guys. He really loved the sport and invested a lot of his own money into it, buying a lot of bikes and becoming a mainstay in the paddock."

He said the snarling, bug-eyed stage presence Flint had with The Prodigy stood in total contrast to real life.

"He was really relaxed and chilled out. He told us some stories of his rock star lifestyle and how he created that persona. It could not have been further from how we found him. He was an easy character to be around."

Mr Reid said the singer gave him a "massive opportunity" by buying him onto his team in 2015.

He added: "He was a great person and we shared a lot of laughs together. I'm devastated for his wife, dogs and horses.

"He was good on a bike - he competed in the 1990s and got to a level where he could appreciate what it took for riders to get to an elite level."

Unlike many, Andy said he wasn't starstruck on meeting his famous new boss.

"I didn't really listen to The Prodigy but my aunt and uncle are massive fans," he said.

"They couldn't believe Keith Flint had bought me into his new team. I didn't take him as a star, his feet were firmly planted on the ground."

A treasured memory was giving Flint's outfit their debut victory at British Supersport Championship at Oulton Park in Cheshire in 2015.

"It was a new team and they'd built up from having one rider to two, but could just not get that win. He wasn't there that day but called me that night and he was absolutely buzzing," Andy said.

"The next day he arrived. I was in pole position and ahead until I was a hundred yards from the finish line but I fell and broke my wrist. That shows the highs and lows of racing and I suppose you can juxtapose that with the highs and lows of his life."

Andy later moved on to join Kawasaki, but remained a firm friend with Flint.

"I was racing against his team. He still comes up to me at the start to give me a hug and says, 'Chief, this is your race'. That was still when I was competing against two of his own racers."

Bandmate Howlett said in a post on Instagram yesterday: "Our brother Keith took his own life over the weekend.

"I'm shell shocked, f***** angry, confused and heartbroken ..... r.i.p brother Liam."

A post on the band's Twitter page added: "It is with deepest shock and sadness that we can confirm the death of our brother and best friend Keith Flint.

"A true pioneer, innovator and legend. He will be forever missed. We thank you for respecting the privacy of all concerned at this time."

Flint's death comes nearly 10 years after he performed a memorable open-air gig to 15,000 fans in front of the Mourne Mountains in Newcastle, Co Down.

Born out of the rave scene of the 1990s, the band fused techno, breakbeat and acid house scoring international hits with tracks like Firestarter and Breathe. Their latest album No Tourists was released in November, their seventh consecutive number one record. The group was scheduled to go on a US tour this year and was also due to perform at London's South West Four festival in August.

Tributes from many famous fans of Flint poured in yesterday.

Broadcaster Jo Whiley described Flint as an "absolute sweetheart" and an "incredible iconic frontman with a soft centre". Actress Kathy Burke tweeted: "He did what all music stars are meant to do; he frightened your mums and dads. RIP Keith Flint."

Essex Police had called to his home yesterday morning over concerns for the welfare of a man. Police said: "We attended and, sadly, a 49-year-old man was pronounced dead at the scene. His next of kin have been informed. The death is not being treated as suspicious and a file will be prepared for the coroner."

Belfast Telegraph