The Kells Road Races in County Meath were overshadowed by a fatal crash that claimed the life of Limavady rider Jack Oliver, whose distraught father said he was ‘totally broken’ by the tragedy.
The 22-year-old was killed in a crash during the Supersport race at the Crossakiel circuit, where he was competing for the first time.
Kells was the first Irish national road race in almost three years after all meetings were cancelled in 2020 and 2021 due to coronavirus restrictions.
Following the fatal incident, the remainder of the meeting was abandoned.
A rising prospect in road racing, the young Northern Ireland rider won his first race at the Cookstown 100 in April in the Senior Support class.
He finished as the runner-up in yesterday’s Junior Support race and was 10th in the Senior Support event.
In a post on social media, his father Tommy said: “I’m totally broken. I can’t cope with this. Always in my heart forever son, love you forever.”
North West 200 race chief Mervyn Whyte, who hails from Limavady, said Jack was “an up and coming star.”
“It’s very sad news about Jack Oliver, an up and coming star from my hometown,” said Whyte, who is currently on holidays in Florida.
Jack’s brother Robbie said he had died ‘doing what he loved’.
“As some may have heard, our wee rocket has gained his angel wings at Kells Road Races doing what he loved,” he wrote in a tribute on Facebook.
“I am sure that big grin was on full display. I honestly have no words. Ride high my brother, I will always love you.”
A statement from Gardaí said the fatal accident occurred at approximately 1.30pm.
It read: “Gardaí and emergency services have attended the scene of a single vehicle collision at a closed racing circuit in Crossakiel Co. Meath, this afternoon, Sunday, 17th June 2022.
“The collision occurred at approximately 1:30pm and involved a motorcyclist.
“The motorcyclist, a man aged in his early 20s, was pronounced dead at the scene. His body has been removed to Navan Hospital.”
This latest blow for road racing comes after experienced rider Davy Morgan was killed in a crash at the Isle of Man TT.
The 52-year-old from Saintfield came off in the first Supersport race on the third and final lap on the Mountain section of the course.
His body arrived home to Northern Ireland yesterday and was escorted to his hometown by a large turnout of bikers.
The former North West 200 and Ulster Grand Prix winner’s funeral will be held tomorrow at Saintfield Presbyterian Church. A time has yet to be confirmed.
Five competitors in total were killed at the TT, the highest number of fatalities since 1989.
The deaths included father and son Sidecar team Roger and Bradley Stockton from Cheshire, French Sidecar driver César Chanal and Welshman Mark Purslow.
An investigation into each of the accidents has been launched by ACU Events Ltd, organisers of the TT Races.
TT Clerk of the Course Gary Thompson said: “After every incident we work tirelessly to understand the circumstances, establish key learning and implement changes as soon as possible. Any fatality during an event is a tragedy.
"As an organisation we promise to take any actions that can help improve safety and undertake this at the earliest opportunity.”