‘He was a gentle giant… his nickname was, ‘Big Bear’, and that’s what he was, just a lovely, big fella’

Facebook picture of John Irwin from Castlederg

Facebook picture of John Irwin from Castlederg

LOCAL elected representatives have led expressions of sympathy to the families of the two young men who died at the scene of a double fatality road traffic collision near Pettigo on Sunday afternoon last.

The single vehicle collision occurred at 4.20pm, at around about lighting up time, about 4 miles from Kesh on a straight stretch of road.


SDLP Fermanagh councillor, John O’Kane, was critical of the standard of road maintenance in the county, especially in rural areas.

“OK, there was the timing (of the accident) and it can take people a while to get used to driving in the dark, and then there’s the wet weather. So, it behoves everybody to be extra careful.

“But, in saying that, anybody will tell you our rural roads are deteriorating. They need a significant amount of a budget. The local office do their best, but the funds at their disposal are inadequate.”

As to the impact of the two deaths, Mr O’Kane stated: “This is every parent’s worst nightmare. It is extremely sad news and two families have been left devastated by this.”

Sinn Fein MLA, Phil Flanagan appealed on Twitter for motorists to take care.

Erne North UUP councillor, Rosemary Barton, speaking in a personal capacity, said the recent heavy rain fall combined with the falling leaves and first frost of winter can make road conditions treacherous at times.

“It is essential for drivers to be prepared to leave extra time for journeys and respect the condition of the roads. I therefore appeal to all drivers, now with the darker evenings and onset of winter, to exercise greater caution on our roads .”


Speaking as chairman of the Fermanagh Policing and Community Safety Partnership (PCSP) she noted that, to date this year, seven people had lost their lives on Fermanagh roads.

“This is a worrying figure. As PCSP chairman, I urge people to drive with care, to reduce their speed, leave a greater distance between the car they are driving and the car in front, and to be extra vigilant at this time of year with the darker mornings and shorter evenings and the increased risk of a slippery road surface.

“Every death on our roads is one too many”.

The parish priest of Pettigo, Fr Owen McEneaney said the entire community was devastated by the collision.

“Sean (Martin) was a very likeable young man who was always walking around with a smile on his face. The family is completely devastated.”

The mother of one of Sean’s close friends, Vera Johnston described Sean as a home bird.

“He was a very friendly, lovely, kind fellow who had lots of friends and lived life to the full. He was close to my son, Christopher and was manys a time in our house, and I couldn’t say a bad word about him.”

Mrs Johnston said Sean loved country music and cars.

Meanwhile, the mother of John Irwin, June Irwin said her son was the ‘baby of the family’, and said his father, also John and his sister and brother, Jill and James were ‘just heartbroken’.

She told the media: “He kissed me that day (Sunday) at 2.30pm and said he’s see me later.

“The crash happened at 4.20pm. He never came back.”

“I am so sorry for Sean’s family. I do not know what to say to them. John was so loving, gentle and kind. He was a gentle giant.

“His friends are taking it bad and missing him. His nickname was, ‘Big Bear’, and that’s what he was, just a lovely, big fella.

“Sean was so cherished and loved, a great gift to us, and he will never be forgotten.”

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