Divine providence saved me from falling tree during storm: ex-MLA
A former unionist politician has revealed how he had a narrow escape during Storm Brendan after a tree crashed down as he was driving.
Cedric Wilson was caught up in the near miss close to the village of Greyabbey in Co Down on Monday.
The one-time mayor of Castlereagh and Assembly Member for Strangford said he believed divine providence saved him in the gale force winds that battered Northern Ireland.
Mr Wilson, who is now a publisher, was on his way to collect his granddaughter Joy (7) from primary school in Greyabbey when he saw a large branch falling in front of his Peugeot car.
He said: "I had just turned a blind corner and I couldn't brake or swerve to avoid the branch, which hit the front of the car and lodged itself underneath it.
"My first instinct was to stop and remove the branch but I was frightened if I did that there could have been an accident if someone came around the corner and ran into the back of me.
"Happily, the branch didn't immobilise the car and I was able to drive on with the wood trailing on the roadway.
"I could smell burning but after a couple of hundred yards I pulled into a safer spot at the car park of Greyabbey and dragged the branch from under the vehicle, which had been damaged."
It was then that the whole tree fell across the road, blocking it completely. Mr Wilson said: "I dread to think what would have happened if I had stopped where the first part of the tree came down and hit my car.
"I don't know what weight was in it but it had the capacity to crush the roof. I could well have been injured or even worse."
Mr Wilson said he was even more relieved that the tree had not fallen when he was going back home in the opposite direction with Joy in the car.
He added: "I was doubly thankful for our safety, which I put down to divine providence, and I offered my thanks that no one in our car or any other vehicle was hurt.
"But it just brought it home to me how a matter of minutes or seconds can be the difference between injury and death."
Mr Wilson's close call came only a short time after he had successfully negotiated the treacherous Newtownards to Portaferry road as huge waves from Strangford Lough crashed over a shore wall.
Video footage of the waves and the flooding on the road was seen by thousands of TV viewers on Monday night.
The road was eventually closed and Mr Wilson, who travels it almost every day, said he had never seen worse conditions.
He added: "The waves were hitting the cars with quite a force and they were actually forcing the vehicles across the road. The danger wasn't just the water coming over to blind the drivers. There were stones and clumps of seaweed too.
"It was a nightmare and my fear was what would happen if a car cut out in the middle of it all."
Yesterday morning the effects of Storm Brendan were still being felt with several roads, mainly in Co Down, still blocked by fallen trees.