Heartbroken families plan fundraiser in memory of storm victim Matthew Campbell
The family of a 24-year-old man killed by a falling tree in Slieve Gullion Forest Park are to undertake a fundraising seven-mountain hike for the Air Ambulance Northern Ireland (AANI) in his memory.
Electrician Robert Matthew Campbell, known as Matthew or Matt, died as strong winds swept across Ireland during Storm Ali in September.
His employer Lagan Construction Limited confirmed at the time that two of its employees were involved in a serious incident while working on behalf of Northern Ireland Water.
Matthew's loved ones believe the former Royal Belfast Academical Institution pupil from Glengormley was killed instantly after being crushed by the 200-tonne falling tree.
Matthew had been due to marry his fiancee Robyn Newberry (23) at the Slieve Donard Hotel in Newcastle next August.
The day after he died she collected their wedding rings and placed Matthew's in his coffin.
On February 2, 2019, Matthew's loved ones will take on the Mourne Wall Challenge, with some carrying backpacks weighing 24kg to represent Matthew's age when he lost his life.
His grieving sister Ashley Campbell (26) told the Belfast Telegraph that, had Matthew not been killed instantly, she believes the Air Ambulance could have provided aid.
"If he had been injured the Air Ambulance could have been vital for his survival," she said.
"We will be hiking 22-miles over seven of the highest peaks in the Mournes. At that time of year there will be snow and ice, but we are determined to do this in my brother's memory.
"It was the idea of our friend Aaron Spence.
"Some participants will be carrying 24kg in weight in memory of Matthew.
"It costs around £5,500 to fund the Air Ambulance for a day and that's what we are aiming for, but if we can raise more it would be amazing."
Ashley said her family is "taking each day as it comes" while trying to come to terms with Matthew's death.
"Not a day goes by when we don't all cry," she said.
"It's very surreal.
"Some mornings you wake up and for a split second you think it was a dream, then you realise it's not."
Ashley revealed that her family and Robyn's family had visited the scene of Matthew's death the day after his funeral.
"We know the winds had got up to about 100mph on the day it happened, and the tree was 150 years old," she explained.
"It weighed about 200 tonnes. At first we thought it was just a tree like you would have in your back garden, but to see it and stand next to it was very scary. It was massive."
Ashley, who is Matthew's only sibling, says she is "grieving for the future" which her little brother will never have.
"We won't see his children, and there will be a day in my life when he will have been dead longer than he was alive," she continued.
"I won't know what he would have looked like when he turned 40.
"Both sets of our grandparents are still here and they feel guilty that they lived longer than Matthew, as that's not the natural order.
"When my daughter Zara was born seven months ago he came to see her and we have photos, but he won't get to see any future kids that I have.
"Zara keeps us going.
"This year was my mum's 50th birthday and she welcomed her grandchild and buried her son."
Robyn, who had set up home with Matthew in Comber, revealed her hurt at the death of her partner of six years.
"Now the numbness is wearing off and it is becoming real, so it hurts a lot more," she said.
"Everything to do with the wedding had to be cancelled.
"Our wedding day would have been a very popular date at the end of summer and we didn't want anyone else to miss out.
"I have four bridesmaid dresses in the house and I haven't decided what I will do with them yet."
Robyn says it is "incredible" that the fundraising page has already raised over £1,500.
"I will be doing the walk alongside members of my own family and Matt's," she said.
"It will be really tough but I just want to do it for Matt.
"We want to raise as much money as possible for the Air Ambulance."
Ashley agreed. "Matt would think we were crazy but if the shoe was on the other foot I know for definite that he would do it for us," she added.
Head of Fundraising at AANI Kerry Anderson said: "We are particularly grateful for the support from Ashley and everyone involved in the tribute fundraising in memory of Matt who died so suddenly and in tragic circumstances."