Tandragee 100: ‘Rider error’ blamed for death of Noel Murphy

Lusk rider Noel Murphy in action at the Tandragee 100 on Saturday before he was killed in a crash during the Junior Support race.
Lusk rider Noel Murphy in action at the Tandragee 100 on Saturday before he was killed in a crash during the Junior Support race.

A motorcycle race led to tragedy at the weekend as a crash claimed the life of a 36-year-old rider.

Noel Murphy lost his life in an accident at the Tandragee 100 race at around noon on Saturday.

The racing stopped as the emergency services got to work, but after his death was confirmed the event then resumed at the insistence of Mr Murphy’s father.

The crash happened on a country road called Cooley Hill to the west of the village, organisers said.

Mr Murphy was from Lusk, a town several miles north of Dublin, and had reportedly celebrated the birth of his son recently.

He is the second rider from the town to die at the race in recent memory, after fellow Lusk man Martin Finnegan was killed at the Tandragee 100 in 2008.

One of those at the race was Harris Healey, a 77-year-old veteran motorcyclist and chairman of the Motor Cycle Union of Ireland’s Ulster Centre, who said the area where the crash happened is the narrowest part of the five-mile course, and can be bumpy too.

He was about two miles from the crash site as news began to filter through that something was wrong.

“I’ve been involved in motorcycling for 50 years, and I’ve raced that circuit many, many times; I raced the very first Tandragee 100,” he said.

“When there was such a delay, and I saw the medical units going out and the doctors going out, I knew there’d been an incident. Usually it ends up with good news – that there has been somebody off but it’s not life-threatening, et cetera.

“But then there was a long, long, long delay – over one hour. If you’re experienced, you know something serious has happened.”

It was announced over the tannoy that it was a fatality, and that the racer’s father wanted the event to continue.

“It’s very sad,” he said. “I don’t know what other words you have for it.

“It hurts, even when you don’t know them. There’s such companionship in motorcycle racing. People who have never been involved do not understand.”

The Millisle man has lost friends over the years, and said there was just no way to take the danger out of the sport.

In addition to the official investigations of the authorities, he expects an interim report from the club to be prepared in the coming days.

The crash happened during the fourth lap of the Junior Support Race, the second race of the day. When racing later got under way again, some riders sat it out as a mark of respect to Mr Murphy.

‘Rider error’ being blamed for crash

The accident is believed to be due to “rider error” as opposed to mechanical failure, according to a spokesperson for the North Armagh Motorcycle and Car Club, which organises the race.

They said no other riders were involved in the incident, but added that it is now under police investigation and no further details could be supplied.

They could not say if the incident would have any effect on next year’s event.

This is the ninth fatality in the Tandragee 100’s 54-year history.

There were around 150 competitors taking part in the 2014 event, which typically draws crowds ranging from 10,000 to 15,000.

Other fatalities in recent years have included John Donnan from Ardglass, who was killed during the 2007 event.

In 1996, English racer Daniel Humphries also died.

The News Letter’s motorcycling correspondent Kyle White said of the circuit: “It would be more challenging, say, than a lot of the other national races, with less room for error.”

Normally a race would be abandoned in the wake of a fatality, but in this case it continued – although he described the mood as “sombre” and “deflated”.