Tributes have been paid to an equestrian centre boss who died suddenly in a tragic hunting accident yesterday afternoon.
Former police officer Claire Lowe from Saintfield had been taking part in a hunt in the New Line area of Ballygowan when the 39-year-old came off her horse at a fence, and died from her injuries shortly afterwards.
A spokesman for the Northern Ireland Ambulance Service said a rapid response paramedic was called to the incident at around 3.20pm.
However, it was too late to save the popular horse rider, who was well known in the local equestrian scene.
Last night her friend Neil McCluskey paid tribute to her on social media.
“Tragic day today as lost a great friend in a freak hunting accident,” he said.
“Claire Lowe was really an amazing person and will be dearly missed by us all.”
A family friend told the Belfast Telegraph: “She was a very likeable and professional lady.
“I feel sick thinking about it.”
Ms Lowe had worked as a constable for Lisburn PSNI, but after the death of her father last Christmas — Gerry Lowe, the owner of the successful Lisburn company Lowe Refrigeration — she had returned home to Saintfield to manage the Mill House Equestrian Centre in Saintfield.
Paying tribute Lisburn and Castlereagh City District Commander, Superintendent Sean Wright said Claire was in the "prime of her life".
Superintendent Sean Wright said: “Claire was an experienced and professional police officer with 6 years service. Claire was in the prime of her life. We all knew of her love for horses and for her sport but we also knew her for being a committed police officer who found challenge and reward in serving the local community and in keeping people safe throughout the Lisburn and Castlereagh District.
“Claire’s untimely death has caused shock amongst her friends and colleagues across PSNI. She will be very much missed by all of us and her loss will be deeply felt for a long time to come.”
“Our thoughts are with Claire’s family and friends at this tragic and difficult time.”
The Police Federation for Northern Ireland which represents rank and file officers also extended its "deepest sympathy" to Claire's family, colleagues and friends.
Her work involved breeding Connemara ponies as well as running a tack shop business and online auction site.
Many friends had not heard the sad news until late last night, and posted their condolences on social media.
Friend Lynne Spence wrote that Claire had “died doing what she loved”.
She added: “Completely shocked and saddened.
“Cannot get over the sad news.”
Nicci Hall said: “Such a tragic loss of a genuinely lovely person.
“Thinking of all your family and friends.”
Lyndon Steele said: “I can’t believe I’m reading this about such a top girl who’d helped me out more than once when I needed it.
“I will never forget you.”
Joanne Gray commented: “Dreadful news. One of life’s genuinely lovely people.”
Another comment from Heather Brown read: “So sorry for the loss of a dedicated young woman.”
TUV councillor for Comber Stephen Cooper said he was saddened to hear the news after a council meeting last night.
“The hunt’s been around for some time and I would extend my sympathies.”