Northern Ireland

Killed rider Mark Buckley 'loved the North West 200'

Mark Buckley
Image caption Mark Buckley joined the new Splitlath Redmond Racing Team last month

The rider who died in the North West 200 this weekend has been described as a "true gentleman who loved the sport."

Mark Buckley from Loch Lomond in Scotland came off his bike close to Millbank Avenue in Portstewart during the Superstock Race.

The 35-year-old died in hospital on Saturday. No other riders were involved.

Speaking on BBC Radio Ulster, North West 200 director Mervyn Whyte said Mr Buckely was aware of the dangers.

"He's been coming for a long number of years. He was always aware of the dangers of motorcycle racing itself but we never ever thought this would happen.

"They were a really nice family and it's just particularly sad at this time. He was an absolute gentleman. He absolutely loved the sport and the North West 200.

Mr Whyte also said he believed they had done everything they could to ensure safety on the course.

"We have spent a massive amount of time on risk assessing the whole course. The independent safety panel assess the course. Three members completely independent of the sport gave their approval for the race going ahead.

"We believe we have done everything we can which is reasonably practical to ensure the safety but there are so many variables. We look at every area where there was a near miss or a major incident and we will assess that and if we feel the need to make improvements then we will do that."

The Sports Minister, Caral Ni Chuilin, said she was "deeply saddened to learn of the accident" and she also expressed her condolences to Mr Buckley's family.

"The circumstances surrounding this incident are a matter, in the first instance, for the organisers of the race and the Motor Cycle Union of Ireland (MCUI) to investigate and I would encourage all concerned to co-operate fully with that investigation," she said.

Mr Buckley, an experienced road racer, joined the new Splitlath Redmond Racing Team last month.

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