Belfast Telegraph

It shouldn’t be real my perfect man dies at 24: Fiancee's anguish over Storm Ali tree fall death

By Victoria Leonard

The fiancee of a man killed by a falling tree during Storm Ali has told how the couple had been due to collect their wedding rings last night - but she will now instead place his in his coffin when he is laid to rest next week.

Electrician Robert Matthew Campbell (24), known as Matt, died in Slieve Gullion Forest Park as strong winds swept across Ireland on Wednesday.

His employer Lagan Construction Limited said that two of its employees were involved in a serious incident while working on behalf of Northern Ireland Water.

Matt's loved ones said it appeared the former Royal Belfast Academical Institution pupil from Glengormley had been hit in the abdomen by the falling tree.

His grieving partner Robyn Newberry (23) told how the young couple had last week sent out 'save the date' cards, and were due to put down a deposit on her wedding dress last night in preparation for their dream marriage next August.

Robyn, who had set up home with Matt in Comber, told the Belfast Telegraph she initially thought it was "a joke" when police arrived at her workplace to break the devastating news that her partner of six years had died. She explained: "I first realised that something was wrong when I tried to ring Matt around lunchtime and it kept going to the answering machine, which wasn't like him.

"I tried calling him six times and there was no answer.

"It wasn't until I was leaving work that a police officer came and told me there had been an accident and Matt hadn't survived.

"I thought it was a joke, that he was just lying.

"We don't know exactly what happened.

"It seems that during the storm a tree has just fallen into the pump house where he was working, and hit him on the abdomen and crushed him.

"They were still assessing the scene so I haven't seen him yet, even though it's Thursday afternoon.

"I am hoping to see him tonight. We are just devastated - it doesn't seem real.

"I keep thinking that he is going to get into bed beside me and everything is going to go back to normal.

"It shouldn't be real that my perfect man has died at the age of 24."

Robyn, who herself turns 24 on Sunday, said she and Matt had been excitedly making plans for the future, and it seemed that "everything was falling into place".

"We met when we were still at school," she said.

"We were both made redundant this year and we had just got ourselves back on our feet with work and had been planning our wedding, then we wanted to do a bit of travelling before we had children.

"We were supposed to be putting the deposit down on my wedding dress tonight. He had told me a few things he would have liked it to have, and I had gone back three times to look at the one I had chosen.

"The hotel was booked, it was to be on August 31, 2019, at the Slieve Donard Hotel in Newcastle, and we had sent the 'save the date' cards out last week.

"Matt had been in charge of the honeymoon, he wanted to surprise me.

"We also ordered our wedding rings last week, and I collected them today.

"I'm going to give one to him when he is laid to rest. It's just surreal, it shouldn't be happening to my man."

Robyn described her fiance as the "kindest, most considerate person".

"He had the biggest heart and he wore it on his sleeve, he would have done anything to help anyone," she added.

"He was my rock, I don't know what to do.

"My parents viewed him as an adopted son, and Matt's parents are completely gutted. I would like to thank the emergency services for everything they did; it's nice to know he wasn't on his own."

Matt's dad Robert Mark said he and his wife Pamela were "just devastated".

"You don't expect to have to bury your 24-year-old son," he said.

"The family liaison officer came up to the house and I asked to go and see Matt, and they took me down with Robyn's dad to where it happened so that I could spend a few minutes with him.

"They couldn't move him because of the tree, but he wasn't alone. He is coming back to the house tomorrow (Friday). His funeral, which will be a celebration of his life, is on Monday and his favourite football team was Liverpool, so we are asking people to wear Liverpool, Northern Ireland or rugby tops if they want.

"I think we are still in shock, it hasn't sunk in yet. We are hoping he is going to come walking through the door, but we know that's not going to happen."

RBAI principal Janet Williamson told how the school had flown its flag at half-mast yesterday in tribute to Matt and another former pupil who had died.

"Matthew was the first student to receive the principal's award for outstanding attendance, 14 years without missing a day at school," she said.

"We are planning to rename it The Matthew Campbell Award. It will be his legacy.

"Matthew left in 2012 but he visited myself and the secretary every year and we looked forward to it - he told us about his job, his engagement, his house.

"He knew exactly what he wanted in life, and that was to be a good partner, a nice person.

"He was very kind and thoughtful, very genuine.

"The tutors have been talking about him, and we have been talking to the other pupils about Matthew. We also have a nurse in situ if anyone needs support.

"We have flown the flag at half mast for Matthew and another pupil who died. It was a rough day. My thoughts and prayers are with Matthew's family."

The PSNI said yesterday that a post-mortem was due to take place to determine the cause of death.

It added: "There are no further details at this time. The Health and Safety Executive has been informed.

"Another man aged in his 40s was taken to hospital for treatment to his injuries."

Lagan Construction Limited said: "We are deeply saddened to confirm that one of our employees has passed away as a result of their injuries and that another employee has been seriously injured and is currently being treated in hospital. Our thoughts and prayers are with the two families at this time. We are offering support and counselling services to colleagues and we continue to work closely with the statutory authorities."

NI Water chief executive Sara Venning said: "Our deepest sympathy goes out to the family and friends of this young man.

"This was a tragic incident and NI Water will continue to work with the statutory authorities and the contractor as they carry out their investigations."

Matt's funeral will take place at 10.30am on Monday in Fleming and Cuthbert Funeral Home in Ballyclare, followed by interment at Ballyclare Cemetery.

Belfast Telegraph

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