Northern Ireland’s road racing community has been stunned by the death of another of its young rising stars.
Andrew Neill from Newmills in Co Tyrone, was killed in a horror crash during practice for the annual Walderstown road races in Co Westmeath yesterday afternoon.
It is understood the motorcycle the 27-year-old was riding came off the track and collided with a tree during the controlled practice ride for the 125cc event.
Racing was abandoned by the event organisers, the Fore Motor Cycle Club Ltd, following the crash, and an investigation is under way.
Another rider was also seriously injured at the event. He was brought to the Midland Regional hospital in Mullingar.
Mr Neill is the second road racing star to lose his life in recent weeks.
Fellow Co Tyrone rider Mark Young died in a high-speed crash during the opening race of the North West 200.
Both men had competed for the D&G Wray Racing team.
Described as one of the rising stars of motorcycling, Mr Neill was a well-known rider on the Irish road racing scene and competed in his first Isle of Man TT last month.
He finished fourth in the 250cc class at this year's Billown TT event on the island, having also taken a fourth place at the Castletown circuit the previous year.
Mr Neill was a regular on the Irish road racing scene and also competed at the North West 200 and Ulster Grand Prix. His brother-in-law, Timmy Turtle, is also a prominent road racer.
After riding at the Manx Grand Prix last year, Mr Neill graduated to the TT Mountain Course this year, taking 19th in the Supersport A race and 16th in the Supersport B event.
Just weeks ago he won the 250cc race at his local event, the Bush Road Races outside Dungannon, and he had finished fourth at Skerries last weekend.
Dungannon rider John Burrows, who was a close friend, had spoken to Mr Neill moments before his death and said a fault with the track may have caused the accident.
“Andrew was an experienced and very safe rider and he was currently at the top of his game,” he said.
“We were parked beside each other and had been having a joke and a laugh before he went out. It’s just a terrible thing to happen.
“There was a piece of shiny tarmac on the part of the circuit where Andrew crashed. I’d ridden over it myself in the wet on a Classic bike and it nearly threw me off.
“The course was basically un-rideable in wet or damp conditions.”
Mr Neill was a member of Dungannon and District Motorcycle Club. Its vice-chairman, David Campbell, said he was one of the sport’s emerging stars.
“Andrew was one of the up-and-coming stars in motorcycling and had a really bright future ahead of him,” he said.
“The club has just been left devastated by this tragedy.
“He was a fine ambassador for the Dungannon club and also for the town. There is just complete shock and devastation and our sympathies are with his wife, Sharon, and the family circle.”
A spokesman for Fore Motorcycle Racing Club said he could not comment on the circumstances of the death because the accident was under investigation by Garda Síochána and the Motorcycle Union of Ireland.