TRIBUTES have been paid to a top civil servant who tragically died on an Easter fishing trip to the north coast.
Driver and Vehicle Licensing chief, Stanley Duncan, who worked in the civil service for 36 years, died suddenly after falling into the sea near Portstewart.
The 57-year-old married father of two daughters was on rocks close to the town’s harbour when he slipped into the bitterly cold Atlantic.
Mr Duncan was rescued by lifeboat after two fellow fishermen managed to stop him from being swept away but he died later in the Causeway Hospital in Coleraine.
A family statement released last night said: “He was a man in a million.”
It’s been revealed that Mr Duncan helped young people and the elderly at home and abroad through his church work andfellow civil servants, church leaders and MLAs have all paid warm tributes.
Trevor Evans, a director at the Driver and Vehicle Agency (DVA), said: “He was extremely dedicated to his work, his family and his church and he had the energy and a capacity for work that always left me in awe.”
Mr Duncan was in the DVA since 1995. He became its chief executive in 2003 and senior staff said he was totally committed to achieving the best for his staff and customers.
Environment Minister Alex Attwood said: “I have worked with Stanley Duncan for the last two years and he was well known to my Assembly colleagues.
“He knew the importance and value of the work of the DVA, in particular the DVA centre in Coleraine. He was committed to the DVA and committed to the public service.
“I want to acknowledge the work of Coleraine Coastguard Rescue Team, the PSNI, Causeway Hospital and Irish Coastguards which all responded to this emergency and worked valiantly.”
Mr Evans added: “Stanley was simply one of life’s true gentlemen.
“I have had the good fortune to work with some lovely people over 40 years but no one was nicer than Stanley Duncan.”
DUP MLA Adrian McQuillan sent his sympathies to the family of Stanley Duncan.
The MLA described Mr Duncan’s death as a ‘tragedy’ and said that his thoughts and prayers were with his friends and family at this sad time.
According to Chris Little, head of Coleraine’s coastguard station, nobody saw him going into the water on Easter Tuesday night while fishing from rocks.He was heard falling in by two nearby fishermen who went to his assistance.
They reached into the water and managed to pull him onto the back of the rocks where they held him while another person sought help. The lifeboat arrived in less than ten minutes.
Mr Little said there were popular fishing spots along the north coast but proportionately few fatal accidents.
He urged those fishing to use lifejackets and be aware of the risk from waves and the slippery surroundings.
Mr Duncan had been at rocks close to Victoria Terrace in Portstewart.
The Coleraine Coastguard Rescue Team, the RNLI inshore lifeboat from Portrush, Portstewart RNLI beach lifeguards and the Irish Coast Guard search and rescue helicopter from Sligo were sent to the scene.
Coleraine mayor, councillor Sam Cole, said: “Our thoughts and prayers are with everyone who was involved and has been affected by this tragedy. This borough has a very beautiful coastline; however this incident again highlights the potential dangers of the sea and I urge everyone using the waters around the north coast over the coming weeks and months, to take care and be cautious at all times.
Alliance councillor, Yvonne Boyle said: “This is an absolute tragedy which has shocked the local community.
“I would urge everybody to be cautious if they are near the sea and take extra safety measures.”
John Dallat, SDLP MLA said: “As an Assembly Member, I dealt with Mr Duncan in his official capacity as Chief Executive of the Driver and Vehicle Agency on many occasions and I always found him to be a gentleman, thoroughly caring, professional and committed to the work he was doing.
“His death is a reminder of the unpredictability of the sea and the potential dangers to those who enjoy it for recreational use.
Mr Duncan is survived by his wife Wendy, daughters Victoria and Ruth, son-in-law Ed, father and mother Cecil and Sally, brothers John and David, as well as sister Valerie.
A private family funeral for Mr Duncan was held on Saturday before a thanksgiving service at the Crescent Church on University Road.
The family has appealed for donations in lieu of flowers to Mission Albania via the Crescent Church.