Belfast Telegraph

Euro 2016 death: 'Darren Rodgers was such a bubbly character, there wasn't a bad bone in his body'

Tributes pour in for NI football fan who died after falling eight metres from Nice promenade just hours after watching game

By Adrian Rutherford

Friends of a Northern Ireland football fan killed in France have said he was living his dream by following the team at Euro 2016.

Darren Rodgers died after falling from the promenade in Nice during the early hours of yesterday morning.

The 24-year-old from Ballymena had fulfilled a lifelong ambition by watching his country play Poland just hours before the tragic accident.

Northern Ireland manager Michael O'Neill led tributes, while a minute's silence is being considered before Thursday's match against Ukraine.

Republic of Ireland fans showed solidarity with applause during their game against Sweden in Paris.

Back in Nice, devastated friends returned to the spot where the tragedy happened.

Darren McDonald from Ballymena was among a group who had travelled to the stadium with Darren on Sunday.

"He was with us all day, went on the bus to the match with us, and the next thing we heard was that this had happened," he told the Belfast Telegraph.

"He was just a bubbly character who was full of life - not a bad bone in his body.

"We had waited 30 years for a day like yesterday, and for something to happen to one of our own fans, a friend, is very sad.

"He'd got here and was enjoying it like every other fan, but lost his life so tragically. It is so sad."

Ian Thompson, who was also part of the group, said: "My last memories of him are going to the match in the bus. He was having such fun and getting along with the Polish fans.

"It is devastating for someone to go to a match that was every Northern Ireland fan's dream and lose their life like this."

The full circumstances of the tragedy are still unclear.

Mr Rodgers was on his own and fell about eight metres from a promenade on to a rocky beach at Castel Plage. He died in hospital overnight.

A senior PSNI officer leading a support team in France said his death was a tragic accident.

Superintendent Nigel Goddard said: "I believe it was an accident - not in any way disorder related, obviously a personal tragedy.

"This was in the early hours, on his own. He had fallen from the promenade on to the rocky beach."

Floral tributes along with Northern Ireland tops and flags were left at the scene yesterday.

Speaking in Lyon, where Northern Ireland play Ukraine, Michael O'Neill said the squad had been shocked by the tragedy.

"To find out that someone so young had lost their life affects everyone really," he said. "The players are very down about it and they pass on their deepest sympathies to both the family and the friends who were out with Darren."

The Irish FA is in discussions with tournament organisers Uefa about a minute's silence at Thursday's game.

Fans are also planning a tribute in the 24th minute, coinciding with his age.

Irish FA chief executive Patrick Nelson said: "We'll ask Uefa whether it's appropriate to have a minute's silence before the [Ukraine] game and/or to wear black armbands."

Northern Ireland captain Steven Davis wrote on Twitter: "So sad to wake up to the tragic news that a Northern Ireland fan has died in Nice, thoughts with his family and friends".

Mr Rodgers was from the Meadowvale area of Ballymena and was a former pupil of Cambridge House Grammar School.

He played for Braid United Football Club.

First Minister Arlene Foster, who was in Nice for the game on Sunday, passed on her condolences.

Belfast Telegraph


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