'We are just devastated' - tributes paid to 'lovely, gentle-hearted' man who died in crash on way to friend's funeral
Tributes have been paid to a 32-year-old man who died in a car crash while driving home from his friend's funeral.
John Joseph Blaney was killed in the two-vehicle crash on Ballagh Road just outside Newcastle, Co Down at around 12.30pm on Friday.
He was on his way to Kilkeel where his partner Barbara Jensikova lives with her daughter Pav.
The garden co-ordinator at Camphill Community Mourne Grange had just left a funeral service in his home town of Downpatrick.
"We are just devastated," Lizzie Dixon, the manager of the supported living centre, said. "John was a lovely, gentle-hearted man. Nothing was too much trouble for him.
"The residents here loved him and so did all the staff."
The 100-acre site is home to more than 50 adults with learning disabilities.
Many of them worked with John in the garden as part of a project designed to help residents engage with each other and their environment.
"They loved being outdoors with John and growing vegetables with him," Ms Dixon said.
"It was more than just a job to John.
"He was very good to them and he always went out of his way.
"He was also a big help with fundraising. He quickly became a member of our family and will be sorely missed," she added.
John and his partner, who also works at the supported living centre in Kilkeel as a support worker, had been looking forward to celebrating their anniversary together.
"They would have been together two years on Saturday and they had planned to spend the day together to mark their anniversary. But sadly that never happened," Ms Dixon said.
"It's absolutely tragic, he was so young with so much still in front of him.
"It seems like there is just no rhyme nor reason to life sometimes," she added.
Many friends have expressed their shock on social media and offered condolences to his parents Anne and Michael, sisters Cara and Emily, and nephew Luke and niece Eva.
"So sad, lovely young man," one Facebook user wrote.
A former colleague of five years expressed shock at the loss of an "absolute gent" who will be sorely missed.
"Totally shocked to hear this sad news - I knew John very well and worked (with him) in the past," another wrote.
One friend hailed John as "such a really lovely lad", adding that they were "always happy" to be in his company.
"My deepest condolences to John's family and friends at this awfully sad time," another wrote.
A Requiem Mass will take place in St Patrick's Church in Saul at 10am tomorrow.
A large group of residents and staff from John's workplace are expected to be among the mourners who will gather to say goodbye before he is laid to rest in the adjoining cemetery.
Police have appealed for anyone who witnessed John's Citroen car in collision with a Skoda Octavia to contact them on 101.
They have also asked drivers with dash-cams who were driving near Bloody Bridge around the time of the crash to check their footage.
Two people travelling in the Skoda vehicle escaped serious injury.