Soldier who survived fatal Cullybackey crash out of hospital

A floral tribute at the scene of the Cullybackey crash that killed two soldiers
A floral tribute at the scene of the Cullybackey crash that killed two soldiers

The Lisburn-based soldier who survived a fatal road collision at the weekend has been released from hospital.

His two colleagues, Lance Corporal David Gwilt from Bedford, and Rifleman Dale Harris from Barnsley, both 24, died when their car hit a tractor on the Ballyconnelly Road near Cullybackey on Friday night.

Stephen Martin

Stephen Martin

They had been serving with the 2nd Battalion The Rifles based at Thiepval barracks.

A total of five people died over the weekend as a result of traffic accidents.

It is understood the soldiers were on a fishing trip in the Magilligan area. They were on their way back to Lisburn when the collision occurred on a bend described locally as “a notorious blackspot”.

Military colleagues of the men said they were “much liked” with great futures.

Their commanding officer said: “David and Dale were much-liked, professional and hugely competent soldiers who had fantastic futures ahead of them. The whole battalion is deeply saddened by their loss and our heartfelt condolences go to their families and friends at this most difficult time.”

A memorial service is expected to be held by 2 Rifles at Thiepval next week to coincide with the respective funerals of the two soldiers in England.

If either of the families opts for a military funeral then a full colour party will travel from Lisburn to facilitate the request.

The deaths of the two soldiers came less than 24 hours before another double fatality on Northern Ireland’s roads, and a day after a man died of injuries sustained in a midweek collision in Co Armagh.

Motorcyclist Andrius Liberis, 25, died in hospital on Friday night following a two-vehicle incident at the Ardress Road area of Loughall. Mr Liberis was originally from Lithuania but had been living in Portadown.

On Saturday 19-year-old Niall Murphy from Newry and 67-year-old Joan Connor from Drogheda, Co Louth, died in a road collision on the Dublin Road, Newry around 5.25pm.

The five deaths in a single weekend were described by the PSNI chief in charge of roads policing as a “sharp spike” in the rate of accidents.

ACC Stephen Martin said: “This sharp spike has again brought into focus the real need for all road users to take responsibility for their actions.”

A a result of the latest fatalities, the total number of deaths on the road for 2014 to date has risen to 48 – equalling the total number for the whole of 2012.

The “spike” in fatal incidents coincided with the launch of a new website from Brake, the road safety charity, providing information, resources and case studies for those seeking to reduce road deaths and injuries.

Brake’s Julie Townsend said the site – – would help “persuade people of the vital importance of using roads safely to protect yourself and others”.