Cyclist who was killed in RTC yesterday was Syrian dentist who came to Ireland to flee war

Mohamed Mahfouz Balid (Pic BBC)
Mohamed Mahfouz Balid (Pic BBC)

A Syrian cyclist who was killed after being struck by a lorry in Lisburn came to Northern Ireland after fleeing war in his home country.

47-year-old Mohamed Mahfouz Balid, who had been living in the Lisburn area, was hit by a lorry as he cycled on the Knockmore Road yesterday afternoon. 

He, his wife, Abir, and their four children came to Northern Ireland in 2013.

Abir's mother came from Belfast, which helped the family secure visas.

Mr Balid worked in a blinds factory to raise money for UK certified dentistry exams.

Speaking to the Sunday World today, family friend of Mr Balid, Mr Raied Al-Wazzan, said the Arab and Muslim communities, as well as Mr Balid's Irish and British neigbours, have rallied around the "devastated" family.

 He said: "The community has been unbelievable. The family has been surrounded by many from the Muslim and Arab community and the local Irish and British community. All of them have been around the family and comforting them. At this time of tragedy it's great to see people coming together to support the family in such a terrible situation."

Speaking of the Balid families journey to find a new life in Northern  Ireland, Mr Al-Wazzan said: "It's a very sad tragedy. Especially when you think of what the family has already been through.

"They fled the war in Syria looking for a quiet peaceful life and luckily they have a connection with Belfast which enabled them to come to Northern Ireland.

 "So they came to Northern Ireland and settled here, and now this tragedy has happened. It's just unbelievable.

"Unfortunately he never reached tha amount of money that he needed in order to sit his dentistry exam. He was doing a manual work in a factory to raise the money and to provide for his family.

 "He was a family man who wanted to stand up for his family. He was doing everything he could. 

 "He said he preferred to do manual jobs because he refused to be a burden on the state and he didn't want to apply for income support or anything like that. He was a very hard worker.

"He was in the first year of studying for the exam, so he was studying and working at the same time. 

 "I still don't believe this has happened myself, but our main concern now is for the children. The children are devastated."

Lagan Valley DUP MLA Paul Givan said that the accident may not have happened had plans for road improvements been applied.

He said: "I have had three ministerial meetings about this junction in the past few years about this very dangerous junction.

"That junction is one that should have been upgraded years ago, but because of a dispute between Roads Service and the Planning Service, it hasn't.

"It's a hugely dangerous road.

"I find it outrageous and deeply upsetting."

 Last year Mr Balid told the BBC in an interview: "There is no future in Syria within this war. No schools, no safe roads, no electricity, no drinking water, even the universities are broken."

Speaking of working in a factory to secure £5,000 to sit his dentistry exams and continue his profession, he said: "I find it good for me to busy myself - not stay at home, and to save some money for that exam."