Monday 17 December 2018

'Our family has seen so much success, and so much tragedy' - Relatives devastated by death of William Dunlop

The death of William (32) is the third to hit Dunlop motor racing dynasty

William Dunlop
William Dunlop

Victoria Leonard

William Dunlop's grieving family are in a "state of disbelief" as they come to terms with the third tragedy to strike the racing dynasty, a relative said.

William's cousin Cathy Laverty, whose mum Linda is the sister of the late Joey and Robert, said her family were "not very good at all" after Saturday's tragedy.

And she said that the entire family had gathered around their elderly grandmother May (86), mother to Joey and Robert and grandmother to William, who had "seen so much success through the Dunlop name, and also so much tragedy".

The 32-year-old was killed instantly while riding his Temple Golf Club Yamaha during practice for the Skerries 100 in Co Dublin on Saturday afternoon.

William's uncle Joey Dunlop. Photo: Stephen Davison
William's uncle Joey Dunlop. Photo: Stephen Davison

The crash happened at the Sam's Tunnel section of the course.

Yesterday Cathy and Linda examined floral tributes bearing messages of support laid at the statue of William's late father Robert in Ballymoney's Joey and Robert Dunlop Memorial Garden.

Robert was killed in the North West 200 in 2008, while his brother died racing in Estonia in 2000.

Recalling the moment she heard the news, Cathy said: "I was in my house when my father phoned me and said there had been a very bad accident and could I come quick, my mum needed me.

William Dunlop and his partner Janine arrive at the Adelaide Motorcycle Awards in Belfast in 2014. PICTURE BY STEPHEN DAVISON PACEMAKER, BELFAST, 17/1/2014.
William Dunlop and his partner Janine arrive at the Adelaide Motorcycle Awards in Belfast in 2014. PICTURE BY STEPHEN DAVISON PACEMAKER, BELFAST, 17/1/2014.

"At that stage it hadn't been confirmed that he was actually dead, but by the time I got to my mum's house they had got the phone call to say that he had died.

"The minute we heard, everybody was phoned, gathered up and we went to my granny's house, and then from granny's to (William's mum) Louise's house.

"The family's very, very close.

"My granny and Louise were, as you can imagine, just very shocked.

"Louise has just lost her son.

"There's a state of disbelief at the minute, because it just doesn't seem real.

"I think my granny has just seen so much success through the Dunlop name, and also so much tragedy.

"She's getting old, she's 86. She's seen two of her sons die, and now, right down to her grandchildren.

"Normally a parent should never see their child die.

"My granny is very, very strong with everything she's been through. I think she just can't believe it.

"We have been through it twice before. Because he hasn't been brought home I think a lot of it hasn't really sunk in with everybody yet."

Cathy revealed that William's partner Janine, who is pregnant with the couple's second child, "just wants to be left alone at the minute to come to terms with everything".

In May William pulled out of the 2018 Isle Of Man TT to be with his pregnant partner, and was in the process of making his return to the sport.

"The baby is due in September," Cathy explained.

"They wanted a surprise, so they didn't know whether it was going to be a boy or a girl.

"His daughter Ella will be two on Sunday."

Cathy revealed that William's younger brother Michael (29), who was riding in the same practice lap in which his brother lost his life, had been "very quiet" since the tragedy.

"Michael is just very quiet at the minute, he needs his space," she continued.

"Nobody wants to intrude, we'll just give him his space until he's ready.

"Michael getting back on the bike again hasn't been discussed, and I don't think anyone will discuss it with him. It's just his choice - nobody can make the decision apart from himself."

Cathy said that William's postmortem examination is expected to be carried out this morning, and the family hope to have his body home tonight.

However, she added that "nothing has been decided yet regarding the funeral", at which she acknowledged there would "probably be thousands of bikers".

Sitting on a bench in the memorial garden, Cathy said it meant "a great deal" to see the crowds of people arriving to pay their respects.

"It shows you how much it affects other people, how much people respected him and thought of him," she said.

"It again comes down to the Dunlop name. We were seeing on Facebook there are people leaving messages from around the world.

"As family we just see them as your cousin or your uncle, but when you're talking to other people and how they see them, you sort of think: 'Gosh, they really have touched a lot of people, and a lot of people have really high opinions of them'.

"There's nothing that can bring comfort at a time like this - William was only 32, he's only a young lad.

"I think it would be nice to have a statue of William in the memorial garden beside his father."

Cathy's grieving mum Linda added that she was simply "devastated" at her nephew's death.

Yesterday's racing went ahead as planned after the Dunlop family said it would be a fitting tribute to the talented racer.

Loughshinny Motorcycle Supporters Club said the entire prize fund would go to William's family.

In June William said he would be taking time out to consider his future after withdrawing from the Isle of Man TT.

In a statement on his website, Dunlop had said: "It has been a difficult few weeks but things have made a turn for the better for myself and Janine. We are expecting a second baby, but unfortunately we received terrible news at our 20-week scan and were referred to a specialist.

"While I was on the island Janine had to deal with everything herself and was attending the hospital appointments and scans herself while I was away. My head wasn't in the races and my thoughts were always at what was happening at home.

"My family will always come first so I made the decision to come home.

"We received positive news this weekend and everything is now appearing to be normal, so after months of uncertainty we now finally feel that we can enjoy this time and get excited for a new addition.

"There are still additional scans and meetings with consultants to attend but things are looking so much better for us as a family.

"I have a few weeks to rest and recover from my NW200 crash and also think about my future. I will sit with my sponsors in time and see where we all stand."

Belfast Telegraph

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