Shocked members of
Dromore Walking Club were among the weekend mourners at the funeral of Stephen McKnight, who died last Tuesday after his microlight aircraft crashed at Newtownards Airfield.
Mr McKnight was himself secretary of the club, which cancelled its planned monthly walk on Sunday as a mark of respect.
“Stephen was secretary for a number of years,” said one member. “He was very efficient and popular. His wife Roz was also a member and they both were regular walkers with the club.”
Alan McFarland, chair of the Ulster Federation of Rambling Clubs, said members were stunned by Mr McKnight’s death. “He was a well-known member of the walking fraternity,” he said. “Those who knew him are certainly devastated by the news.”
A former policeman turned local driving instructor, 55-year-old father-of-two Mr McKnight lived at Culcavey, Hillsborough.
Said to have been an experienced pilot, he was flying solo in near-perfect conditions on Tuesday morning when the privately-owned microlight plunged to earth shortly after take-off.
Mr McKnight was removed from the aircraft by emergency services and rushed to hospital, where he died a short time later.
The badly damaged Microlight was examined by a team from the Air Accidents Investigation Branch.
Lagan Valley MP, Jeffrey Donaldson, called for the accident to be thoroughly investigated.
“This is devastating news for the McKnight family, who are well known and respected,” he said. “No-one expects to receive this kind of tragic news. My thoughts and prayers are with the family at this time.
“Stephen was pursuing a pastime that brought great joy to his life but sadly it ended in this tragedy. There must be a full investigation by the aviation authorities as to what happened.”
Mr McKnight is survived by his wife, Rosalind; sons, Michael and Gavin; sister, Rosemary; his brother-in-law Bert; nephews and nieces Andrew, Helen, Hazel, Ruth and Ross and wider family circle.
A service of thanksgiving for his life was held in Hillsborough Presbyterian Church on Saturday, followed by committal in Dublin’s Glasnevin Crematorium.
Donations in lieu of flower may, if desired, be sent to Bobby Morrison Funeral Director, 38 Hillsborough Road, Lisburn, BT28 1AQ, for the Ulster Wildlife Trust.