Warm tributes have been paid to 80-year-old Maureen Buchanan who died after an horrific six-vehicle crash while travelling to a ladies church weekend.
Former Alliance MP Naomi Long, who knew Mrs Buchanan and the other three women with whom she was travelling to Dromantine retreat centre – all members of Bloomfield Presbyterian Church in Belfast – said she was a “gracious, warm and friendly Christian lady”.
The M1 motorway was closed overnight after the collision, which happened close to Cornakinnegar Bridge between junctions nine and 10 west-bound (Moira-Lurgan) at 5.30pm on Friday.
A second collision also took place approximately one mile away, also country-bound.
“I sang in the church choir with Maureen for years,” said the former MP.
“When I first joined Bloomfield (Presbyterian Church) she was a very, very well-known member of the congregation.
“I know all four ladies who were in the car so it has been quite a shock for the whole close-knit church family and I think people are still coming to terms with it.”
Mrs Long – who is standing in the upcoming Assembly election – said Mrs Buchanan “was a back seat passenger in the car” and “it is absolutely devastating”.
Adding that she knows Mrs Buchanan’s son and daughter, Mrs Long told the News Letter: “My thoughts and prayers are with them at the minute because it is hard to think what they are going through right now.
“It was just so sudden.
“We are just hoping and praying they will make a full recovery.
“They are all quite youthful women in that they are full of energy and fun.”
In a Facebook post the former MP wrote: “Thoughts also with Rosemary, Belle and Margaret who were injured. Sending them my prayers for a full recovery.”
Assistant Chief Constable Alan Todd also extended his condolences to Mrs Buchanan’s family.
He also said police were aware “of the difficulties and frustration” caused for motorists on the M1 on Friday evening.
He said the PSNI close any road “with reluctance”, but “following any fatal road traffic collision police have an obligation to carry out a full and thorough investigation into the exact circumstances of the collision and the scene must be closed in order for that investigation to take place”.
He said the “motorway was obviously extremely busy at the time of the collision” and appealed for “drivers who may have witnessed what happened” to contact 101.
Her minister Rev Frank Sellar said she was “hugely loved by everyone, young and old in Bloomfield Presbyterian Church”.
He added: “She was the most wonderful Godly lady who prayed regularly for each of the young people by name. Last Sunday there were tears of joy in church as Maureen rejoiced when 14 young people made public profession of their faith and became communicant members.
“This Sunday there were tears of sorrow in the packed church, not for Maureen - because she was ready and longing to meet with her Lord - but tears for ourselves as a congregation at having lost such a dear friend.”
Former MP Naomi Long paid tribute to her.