Tuesday 20 August 2019

'What a terrible tragedy' - tributes paid to 'much-loved family doctor' who died at motor race event

Dr Paul Conn
Dr Paul Conn

David Young

TRIBUTES have been paid to a "much-loved family doctor" who died in a tragic accident at a motor racing event.

Dr Paul Conn (60) from Lisburn in Belfast, a GP at Ballygomartin, had been a member of the 500 Motor Racing Club of Ireland for more than 20 years.

The Air Ambulance was scrambled to the Kirkistown circuit in Co Down following the accident on Saturday, but Dr Conn's life could not be saved. The rest of the meeting was abandoned.

According to observers it was a "racing incident" which happened as Dr Conn, a oadsports race winner earlier in the day, attempted to overtake a slower car on the start/finish straight in race two. His Crossle sportscar touched the other car and was sent crashing off the track.

Rescue services and the circuit's medical team were quickly on the scene but Dr Conn was pronounced dead at the scene.

In a statement the racing club said: "He joined our club in 1996 and during the intervening years he campaigned his Crossle 47S with increasing success.

"In 2018 he seemed to reach a new level of skill and he began to trouble the established top echelon of drivers in roadsports, winning in the second race of the May meeting.

"Yesterday (Saturday) he had already won the first roadsports race, against top opposition, and he was on course for a repeat in the second race when he had an accident opposite the control tower, on the front straight.

"Because of the location of the incident our doctors and the Order of Malta personnel were in attendance almost immediately but, unfortunately, Paul succumbed to his injuries at the scene.

"We offer our sincere condolences to Paul's family, friends, colleagues and team.

"He will be sorely missed," the club added.

Former Lord Mayor of Belfast Brian Kingston said the Shankill community had been left deeply shocked.

"People in the community are stunned to hear of this tragedy," he told the Belfast Telegraph.

"Dr Conn was a much-loved family doctor in the Shankill area for more than 30 years - the majority of his professional life.

"It's a terrible tragedy, and I want on behalf of the whole local community to express our sincerest condolences to his family circle, friends and colleagues at their dreadful loss."

Friends and patients of Dr Conn took to social media to share their grief as news of his death spread yesterday.

Hundreds of people posted messages of sympathy and condolence, along with memories of the much-loved family doctor.

One posted: "Such sad news. One of the most genuine doctors of this world.

"Always had time for each person as an individual. There'll never be another like him. What a terrible tragedy. Thoughts and prayers are with his family, friends and colleagues. So sad."

One of Dr Conn's former work colleagues wrote on Facebook: "Deepest sympathy to his family.

"He was my GP years ago and also I remember him as a junior doctor working in RMH Special Care Baby Unit where I worked."

Motorsport fans also shared their grief at the news, with one saying they had lost "a friend and competitor".

The incident is being investigated by officials of the Motor Sports Association, the UK's governing body.

The Kirkistown circuit, based at a former wartime RAF airfield outside Kircubbin, describes itself as "the fastest racing circuit in Ireland".

Car racing fatalities at the circuit are rare, the last being more than 40 years ago, although two motorcycle riders and a karter have died in more recent times.

Belfast Telegraph

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