Sunday 4 December 2016

'His family is devastated' - Young Northern Ireland fan (25) dies after fall at Euro 2016

* Northern Ireland captain Steven Davis leads tributes
* Young man named locally
* Friends call him a 'gentleman'

Claire Williamson

Published 13/06/2016 | 08:45

Police officers watch the site where a football fan fell in the French riviera city of Nice, southeastern France, on June 13, 2016. AFP PHOTO / VALERY HACHEVALERY HACHE/AFP/Getty Images
Police officers watch the site where a football fan fell in the French riviera city of Nice, southeastern France, on June 13, 2016. AFP PHOTO / VALERY HACHEVALERY HACHE/AFP/Getty Images
This picture taken on June 13, 2016, shows a general view of the beach where a Northern Irish football fan fell in the French riviera city of Nice, southeastern France. AFP PHOTO / VALERY HACHEVALERY HACHE/AFP/Getty Images
This picture taken on June 13, 2016, shows the site where a Northern Irish football fan fell in the French riviera city of Nice, southeastern France. AFP PHOTO / VALERY HACHEVALERY HACHE/AFP/Getty Images
This picture taken on June 13, 2016, shows the site where a Northern Irish football fan fell in the French city of Nice, southeastern France. AFP PHOTO / VALERY HACHEVALERY HACHE/AFP/Getty Images
Journalists film the site where a football fan fell in the French city of Nice, southeastern France, on June 13, 2016. AFP PHOTO / VALERY HACHEVALERY HACHE/AFP/Getty Images

A 25-year-old Northern Ireland fan who died following a fall in Nice has been described as "a gentleman".

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The young man has been named locally as Darren Rodgers from Ballymena, Co Antrim.

Mr Rodgers died after an 8-metre fall from a wall along the seafront.

The young man was on his own at the time and died in hospital overnight.

Darren Rodgers
Darren Rodgers

Stewart McDonald, from Ahoghill just outside Ballymena, spent several hours with him ahead of Sunday's game.

He said: "I have spoken with Darren's uncle this morning and they are just devastated. They cannot believe Darren won't be coming home."

This picture taken on June 13, 2016, shows the site where a Northern Irish football fan fell in the French city of Nice, southeastern France. AFP PHOTO / VALERY HACHEVALERY HACHE/AFP/Getty Images
This picture taken on June 13, 2016, shows the site where a Northern Irish football fan fell in the French city of Nice, southeastern France. AFP PHOTO / VALERY HACHEVALERY HACHE/AFP/Getty Images

It is understood Mr Rodgers had been in France for the opening fixture of Northern Ireland's European Championship campaign against Poland.

He had been travelling with a group of friends who arrived in Nice last Thursday and was staying at a campsite nearby.

This picture taken on June 13, 2016, shows a general view of the beach where a Northern Irish football fan fell in the French riviera city of Nice, southeastern France. AFP PHOTO / VALERY HACHEVALERY HACHE/AFP/Getty Images
This picture taken on June 13, 2016, shows a general view of the beach where a Northern Irish football fan fell in the French riviera city of Nice, southeastern France. AFP PHOTO / VALERY HACHEVALERY HACHE/AFP/Getty Images

At his family home, a neat bungalow on the edge of Ballymena, a family member said she did not want to speak about the tragedy.

Mr McDonald said fans from everywhere had been affected.

This picture taken on June 13, 2016, shows the site where a Northern Irish football fan fell in the French riviera city of Nice, southeastern France. AFP PHOTO / VALERY HACHEVALERY HACHE/AFP/Getty Images
This picture taken on June 13, 2016, shows the site where a Northern Irish football fan fell in the French riviera city of Nice, southeastern France. AFP PHOTO / VALERY HACHEVALERY HACHE/AFP/Getty Images

"His death has touched absolutely every fan. It is just so sad and so tragic," he added.

"Darren, like everybody else, was in really great form and was looking forward to the game.

"It is 30 years since we have qualified for a major tournament - Darren wasn't even born then - and he had been looking forward to the trip for months."

It has been reported he fell from the promenade onto a rocky beach at Castle Plage on the Promenade des Anglais.

Thousands of fans flocked to the French city on Sunday to watch Northern Ireland's first Euro 2016 game against Poland.

Superintendent Nigel Goddard is in charge of the PSNI operation in France and said the death was an accident and not in any way disorder related.

He told the BBC: "I was informed this morning by French counterparts of this tragic news.

"The processes are that the Foreign and Commonwealth Office will make contact with this man's family and take it from there.

"I believe it was an accident - not in any way disorder related, obviously a personal tragedy.

"This was in the early hours, on his own, quite possibly had a bit of drink taken.

"He had fallen from the promenade onto rocky beach."

Northern Ireland captain Steven Davis led tributes saying his thoughts were with the young man's family.

Fellow teammates Gareth McAuley, Stuart Dallas and Niall McGinn have all tweeted paying their respects to the fan.

In a statement chief executive of the IFA Patrick Nelson expressed their "deep sadness".

He said: "On behalf of the board, management, players and staff of the Irish Football Association, I would like to express my deep sadness at the tragic death of a Northern Ireland supporter in Nice in the early hours of this morning.

"The thoughts of everyone at the Association are with his family and friends at this time.”

Tributes

Tributes have been paid on the young man's Facebook page calling him a "gentleman".

One said: "He would never walk pass without a chat. Terrible news to take up to.

"All you wanted was to go to France and support your country like everyone else, rest easy."

First Minister Arlene Foster who was in Nice watching the match passed on her condolences to the family of the young man.

The DUP leader said: "The whole atmosphere was one of great excitement great joy.

"It is tremendously sad news to hear that a young fan has lost his life

"The details are only coming through  I want to express my deepest sympathy to the family back home in Northern Ireland.

"It's news that will come as a terrible shock. A man going out to have the trip of a lifetime and to be told this has happened is really shocking."

Belfast Telegraph

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