AUDIO: Families pay tribute to walkers killed on Mourne Mountains

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Robert Robinson and two of his grandchildren

By Q Radio News and PA

The families of two men killed in separate falls in the Mourne Mountains on Sunday have been paying tribute to their loved ones.

The walkers died within an hour of each other.

One of the men was a former senior police officer, Robert Robinson from Banbridge. 

The 64-year-old was a father of two and grandfather of three.

His son, Neil, says he was a loving family man. 

Neil was with his father at the time of the tragedy...

And he's paying tribute to the emergency services...

The other man to die was County Armagh father of four Sean Byrne. 

(Sean Byrne from Camlough)

Mr. Byrne was a businessman from Camlough who was heavily involved in the local hurling club, Creeve Rua. 

His sister Mairead Robb spoke on behalf of the family... 

Another man was injured in a third incident, in an area known as the Saddle, around 2.30pm. He sustained a broken ankle.

The Mourne Mountain Rescue Team supported by police and other emergency services were involved in the two recovery and one rescue operations.

The mountains are classified as an area of outstanding natural beauty and are popular with hill walkers.

Police said there were no suspicious circumstances in the deaths.

The Police Service of Northern Ireland's Air Support unit described the recovery and rescue operations as "tough and challenging".

A tweet said: "In strong winds we managed to airlift one male out but sadly the two others had died. Our thoughts are with their loved ones."

PSNI deputy chief constable Stephen Martin tweeted: "Sincere sympathy to the families of the two men who died. Also a heartfelt thanks to my colleagues @PSNIAirSupport, @PSNINMDown & the other emergency services who responded to these tragic events. We are very proud of you & truly appreciate what you do in the service of others."

South Down MP Chris Hazzard expressed his condolences to the families of the two men.

"The tragic news that two men died today while walking in the Mournes will have shocked the entire local community," said the Sinn Fein representative.

"I'd like to commend Mountain Rescue and the emergency services who responded to today's incidents and who also rescued a third walker who got into difficulties elsewhere in the Mournes.

"My thoughts and condolences are with the family and friends of those who tragically died in these incidents in the Mournes today."

South Down Assembly member Colin McGrath, whose office is based in Newcastle at the foot of the Mournes, described conditions in the area on Sunday and offered his sympathies.

"It has been windy today in the South Down area but it hasn't felt as bad as it can be," the SDLP representative said on Sunday evening.

"But earlier today the PSNI had issued a warning to those using the mountains to exercise extreme care as conditions were poor.

"News that two people have died in separate incidents/falls in the mountains will come as a complete shock to the small community of mountain walkers and climbers who use the range of a regular basis.

"Such an event is chilling and shows the power of nature and how it can strike without notice as has happened with these winds today.

"My thoughts and prayers are with the families of those that have died and those involved in the operations to assist those caught in these tragedies."

Councillor Jill Macauley, who represents the Mournes area, also extended condolences.

"Traditionally the trails are busy at weekends with walkers and mountain enthusiasts flocking to enjoy the iconic and scenic surroundings the Mournes has to offer," said the Ulster Unionist.

"Unfortunately today what is a routine and enjoyable trip for many ended in absolute horror.

"I praise the quick and effective response of the police and emergency services, their professionalism and dedication second to none no matter what difficulties they encounter."

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