Bonfire victim’s mother gives blessing for builders to ‘beat world record’ for highest pyre

“There's no way you are stopping”, she told us
A couple take a selfie photograph in front of the completed Loyalist bonfire in Craigyhill which is claiming a new world record on July 11, 2022 in Larne (Photo by Charles McQuillan/Getty Images)

A couple take a selfie photograph in front of the completed Loyalist bonfire in Craigyhill which is claiming a new world record on July 11, 2022 in Larne (Photo by Charles McQuillan/Getty Images)© Getty Images

Neasa CumiskeySunday World

The mother of the man who died after falling from a Co Antrim bonfire gave her blessing for builders to go ahead with a world record attempt, according to organisers.

John Steele, a father aged in his 30s, was confirmed by the PSNI to be “assisting in the building of the bonfire” when he died after falling in Antiville, Larne on Saturday night.

The bonfire was dismantled on Sunday night and a vigil was held in respect of the deceased.

Builders of the nearby Craigyhill bonfire last night revealed they had been planning to call off the attempt to build the world’s highest bonfire following the incident until Mr Steele’s mother contacted those involved, the Irish News reports.

“We all knew him up here and that's why we had a meeting and were going to pull the plug on it,” a spokesman said.

“She told us we had to go on and beat the record. 'There's no way you are stopping', she told us herself, that there was no way we were allowed to stop, we had to do it for him.”

The Craigyhill bonfire was measured today using lasers and a drone and stands at 202.3 ft high, beating the current world record at 198ft, which was built in Austria more than 3 years ago.

It is expected to be topped out by a 45ft beacon and platform before being lit tonight.

The spokesman said the bonfire will now be dedicated to Mr Steele.

He added that Mr Steele had been involved in building his local bonfire “for years and years.”

“It's unfortunate, it's a tragic accident, what happened, our condolences go to the family,” he said.

The spokesman stressed that safety was a top priority after concerns were raised about the structure last week.

“We were harnessed up here, the safety up here is paramount, and that's the reason why,” he added.

Mr Steele’s death has shocked the loyalist community in Larne over the past few days.

Speaking during their morning service on Sunday, Craigy Hill Presbyterian Church minister Ben Preston told those gathered: “I am sure you have heard the tragic news of what happened last night.

"Our deepest condolences are with the family and indeed with the whole community. We will be here for you, we will be all too pleased to read God's word, to pray and to offer a cup of tea.

“We will plan for something maybe here in the afternoon, to offer ministry at the bonfire. I understand from council they are going to be taking the bonfire down which is wholly appropriate.

"We are numb and we are in shock at such an accident and such a tragedy. Continue to hold the family, the community and each other here in your prayers.”

Ulster Unionist Party MLA John Stewart said it was “tragic news” for the area.

"My thoughts and deepest sympathies are with the man’s family, friends and the entire community at this really difficult time,” he said.

“This was a terrible accident and the local community will rally round to give the family as much support as possible.

“I would appeal to everyone to cooperate with the investigation into what happened.”

Meanwhile, other bonfires across Northern Ireland paid tribute to the man, including oragnisers of the Craigyhill bonfire, who wrote on social media: “It is with deepest sympathy the tragedy that happened tonight to a fellow bonfire builder in the Antiville estate in Larne.

“It is with his family wishes that the Craigyhill bonfire carries on and beats the world record in his memory.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with his immediate family circle.”

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