School comes to terms with farm tragedy

Robert Christie who died in a slurry accident near Dunloy on Saturday
Robert Christie who died in a slurry accident near Dunloy on Saturday

Pupils and staff of a north Antrim primary school were yesterday coming to terms with the death of Robert Christie in a weekend farm tragedy.

Eight-year-old Robert died after being overcome by slurry fumes on a farm near Dunloy on Saturday.

His father Bertie Christie, who he was with at the time, remains critically ill in the Causeway Hospital, Coleraine.

A special assembly was held yesterday at Knockahollet Primary near Ballymoney and a number of counsellors were available for both teachers and pupils throughout the day.

Principal Gerry Black said his staff were doing a wonderful job of helping the children come to terms with the effects of the tragedy.

“The staff were all in the playground and there were governors in the playground as well – it was a very pastoral environment for children just to make that initial return to school,” he said.

“A busy school playground can be a great place because it just portrays a degree of normality for a lot of kids, so there were children running around playing games, and there were other children in pockets just chatting among themselves and just dealing with the situation in their own ways.

“Following that we had a special assembly and at that assembly the local minister talked to the children about what had happened – trying to make sense of what you don’t understand.”

Mr Black, who described Robert as “a bubbly wee character”, added: “We approached this in a very positive perspective because we wanted to celebrate Robert’s life and remember him in a positive light.

“It was a very sincere atmosphere. It was very respectful. It wasn’t a sad atmosphere and that was the good thing about it. It was poignant and the children were very attentive. We then went on to talk about emotions and about dealing with emotions.

“What we don’t want is children to be confused about their feelings in relation to this, so we talked about the variety of different emotions they would be experiencing – perhaps anger, perhaps denial, sadness, acceptance.”

Mr Black said the return to school for Robert’s sisters will evoke lots of memories for them but that the school will be working with the family to provide the necessary help and support.

“The people who will make the biggest difference are their friends and their schoolfriends – they come alongside them and they will be a great support,” he said.

Robert’s funeral is due to take place at Ballyweaney Presbyterian Church this afternoon.