Latest road death sixth in fortnight

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A sixth person this year was killed on Northern Ireland’s roads yesterday.

Lee Drake, 44, died after a crash at around 6.20am on the Ballygowan Road in Saintfield at the junction of the Belfast Road and the Carsontown Road.

The road remained closed for around seven hours after the crash.

It is understood Mr Drakes’s black Vauxhall Astra car may have collided with an electricity pole at the junction.

Roads Service said they could not comment on the circumstances as a police investigation is ongoing.

Across Northern Ireland motorists had to contend with extremely icy conditions.

Some road users hit out at Roads Service, claiming some main roads had not been treated.

A spokesman said their forecasts had shown that temperatures would remain above freezing, but there had been “an un-forecast dip in temperatures at around 5-6am”.

Roads Service reported just after 6am that the main routes had been salted and were “generally free of ice”, but warned that the risk of icy patches remained. By 8am there had been reports of collisions in Markethill and on the A1 between Hillsborough and Saintfield also.

Temperatures were forecast to fall below freezing again last night and Roads Service warned of a risk of ice on roads.

Local councillor William Dick expressed his condolences to the family of the latest roads victim.

He said the Ballygowan Road in Saintfield was “absolutely treacherous” on Monday.

A spokesman for Roads Service said the main network, carrying 80 per cent of traffic, is salted.

“Roads Service continues to use its resources where the effects would be greatest on the maximum number of people,” he said.

One road user said he had faced an extremely frightening situation when, travelling at 24mph on Dromore Street in Ballynahinch, his car skidded and spun across the road.

“I lost control of the car and it spun so I ended up facing the other way, I was just lucky there were no other cars or pedestrians on the road at the time, and that it was quite early in the morning.

“It is a main route in the town, and would be used by school buses so I would have expected it to be gritted. I drove with extra care anyway but when I got out of the car I didn’t see any evidence that the road had been salted at all.”

The Roads Service spokesman said the situation had been made worse by isolated showers across Craigavon, Banbridge, Armagh, Downpatrick, Newry and Kilkeel.

Commenting on the collision that caused the death of Mr Drake in Saintfield, a PSNI spokesman said: “Police would appeal to anyone who witnessed the incident or anyone who was travelling on the Ballygowan Road around the time of the incident to contact the Collision Investigation Unit at Steeple or police in Downpatrick by calling 0845 600 8000.”

At the weekend a 58-year-old male pedestrian died following a collision in south Armagh only hours after a 22-year-old man was killed when the stolen car he was driving stuck a lorry and another car on the outskirts of west Belfast.

The latest death adds to the high level of carnage on the province’s roads since the start January 1 - despite an overall improvement in road safety in recent years.

There were four road deaths recorded over the course of the entire month of January in 2012, while in 2013 there were five fatalities during January.

Durkan calls special meeting

On Saturday, following five road deaths within the first 10 days of the year, police declared a road safety emergency.

The Environment Minister has called a special meeting for road safety stakeholders, which will include emergency services and police, at Parliament Buildings today.

Mark H Durkan said he intends to take a number of actions this year to tackle road crashes. “We have had a sad start to the new year and I want to reinforce the message that people need to use our roads with care. It is vital for everyone to think about what they are doing, to remain vigilant, to take responsibility for their actions and to look out for others.”