John Steele described as 'great family man' as council confirms probe into bonfire death

The death of a man who fell from a bonfire in Larne has left a community 'in a state of shock', a close friend of the victim has said.

John Steele was helping to construct the towering pyre in the Antiville estate in Larne, Co Antrim, when the incident happened on Saturday night (9 July).

The bonfire, constructed from stacked wooden pallets, was more than 50ft tall.

On Monday, Mid and East Antrim Borough Council confirmed it was investigating as the pyre was built on its land. Police are also investigating.

Condolences were offered from far and wide across Northern Ireland to Mr Steele's friends and family after news of the accident emerged late on Saturday night. A close friend of Mr Steele paid tribute to him in an interview with UTV.

The funeral for Mr Steele will be held on Thursday at 2pm in his home in Lindara Drive in Larne before moving to Larne Cemetery.

"I grew up with John, in the same estate and same street," Robert Hutchinson said.

"It is an absolute tragedy what has happened.

"He loved to build the bonfire and it is unfortunate what happened. What can you say? It is just tragic."

The bonfire was located on land owned by Mid and East Antrim Council.

It was one of around 250 that have been built in loyalist areas across Northern Ireland to usher in the main date in the Protestant loyal order parading season - the Twelfth of July.

Mr Steele, a window cleaner aged in his 30s, was pronounced dead at the scene.

He was from the Antiville area.

The bonfire was taken down on Sunday afternoon and the remnants were set alight at a vigil for Mr Steele on Sunday night.

The victim had two children.

"Two young kids, left with a father now. It is heartbreaking," added Robert Hutchinson.

"Everybody is in a state of shock up here. It is unbelievable what has happened."

Following the death, Mid and East Antrim council launched an investigation into the death as the bonfire was built on its land.

"We are deeply shocked and saddened at the death of a young man in Larne on Saturday night and our thoughts and prayers are with his family and friends at this awful time," it said in a statement.

"Mid and East Antrim Borough Council works closely with relevant statutory partners and the community in relation to bonfires throughout the area.

"(The) council has developed a Cultural Celebrations Working Group with the aim of strengthening partnerships between local community leaders and statutory partners to encourage safe and responsible cultural celebrations.

"Whilst the construction and lighting of bonfires are not council-managed events, on an ongoing basis we work closely with the community and provide any support we can.

"As this tragedy occurred on council land, we have launched an investigation."

Police are also investigating and have appealed for witnesses.

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