2001 – Thousands gather in Ballinamallard, Co. Fermanagh for the funerals of rally champion Bertie Fisher and two of his children, Emma, and Mark – also a renowned driver.

Thousands of people have attended the funerals of a leading Northern Ireland rally driver and his son and daughter, who died in a helicopter crash last weekend.

Bertie Fisher died in hospital on Tuesday from head injuries he received in the crash near his home in Ballinamallard, County Fermanagh.

His daughter Emma, 25, and son Mark, 27, died at the scene of the accident on Sunday.

Crowds of people who could not fit into Magheracross Parish Church in Ballinamallard, where the funerals were held, heard the service on PA systems in a local Methodist church, a hotel and a marquee.

Others stood in the streets of the village.

Injured:

Bertie Fisher’s wife Gladys and his son Roy, 23, who are still be treated in hospital after the crash, were not able to attend the funerals.

Mrs Fisher is in a critical condition, while Roy, who sustained two broken arms, has been described as stable.

Bertie Fisher’s father Tommy was also unable to attend because he is still being treated in hospital after undergoing heart surgery.

Rally enthusiasts and politicians were among those who attended.

The service included tributes to the Fisher family from leading rally driver Austin McHale, a long time friend and rival of Bertie Fisher’s and motorsport commentator Plumb Tyndall.

Northern Ireland sports minister Michael McGimpsey, Irish sports minister Jim McDaid, environment minister and family friend Sam Foster, Ulster Unionist MP Ken Maginnis and Democratic Unionist MP Ian Paisley were among the politicians who attended.

The 180 employees of the family business Fisher engineering, whose premises are on the edge of the village also went to the funerals.

The bodies of Bertie Fisher, Mark and Emma were buried in the local cemetery near Ballinamallard.

Birthday celebration:

Mr Fisher, a millionaire businessman, was at the controls of his Eurocopter Squirrel, when it crashed in woodland near Ballinamallard.

Local people said fog was starting to come down at the time.

The family had been returning from a birthday celebration for Mrs Fisher at Ashford Castle in County Mayo.

There have been hundreds of tributes to the Fisher family from all over Northern Ireland, following the tragic crash.

Irish Prime Minister Bertie Ahern also expressed his sorrow at the deaths of Bertie Fisher and his children.

Mr Ahern was speaking after a ceremony honouring sporting celebrities in Ireland.

Mark Fisher had been following in his father’s footsteps and had just signed a contract to drive for Peugeot UK.

Missionary worker:

Emma had worked as a chiropodist in Belfast while she studied part-time at Queen’s University.

She had in the past worked with the Leprosy Mission in India.

The Reverend Tom Robinson said she was “a girl with a very bubbly and vibrant personality who brought a young perspective to her work with the mission”.

She played hockey for Annadale womens’ club. Her team mates cancelled all training sessions and league matches for a week as a mark of respect.

A colleague there said: “Emma was one of the most happy and enthusiastic players in our club and she will be desperately missed.”

Source: BBC News

Bertie Fisher Tribute: http://youtu.be/OBBRcOWY4Zc

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