Mr Robin Swann MLA, the Ulster Unionist Party’s North Antrim Assembly member and Chief Whip, has urged the community “to rally round the family of the young Northern Ireland football fan who has died in Nice in France”.
Assemblyman Swann, who is also North Antrim UUP Chairman and Chairman of the Stormont Public Accounts Committee, made his appeal as French police confirmed the death of 24-year-old Darren Rodgers from Ballymena.
It is believed Mr Rodgers was on his own and fell about eight metres from a promenade onto a rocky beach. Supt Nigel Goddard, who is leading the PSNI team in France, said he was told it was an accident and not in any way disorder related.
Mr Swann said: “This is a terrible tragedy and I extend my sympathies to Mr Rodgers’ family circle. I urge the community to rally round the family circle by remembering them in their thoughts and prayers at this exceptionally difficult time.”
Speaking in the Stormont Chamber, Mr Swann added: “Death leaves a heartache that no one can heal. We were all in shock and sadness when we heard of the death of a Northern Ireland fan in Nice, young Darren Rodgers.
“He was a young man who went, like many others, to France to support his team and his country at the football. He was a young man whose life was in front of him, but has been tragically cut short.
“The town of Ballymena is numb due to the news that is slowly filtering out, and Northern Ireland fans in France are trying to understand the loss of one of their own. It puts things into perspective.
“I ask the fans who are out there, and those intending to go, to look after one another and themselves and to stay safe. The thoughts of the House, as with the other matter of the day, are with Darren’s family and friends as they come to terms with the loss of a friend and a loved one.
“Darren’s is the second fatality to occur in my constituency. There has also been a death from a road traffic accident in Ballymoney.
“There will be two homes this evening in North Antrim that will have empty chairs and it is right and proper that we reflect on that and think of those families at this time,” said Assemblyman Swann.