THE family of the Fermanagh man who lost his life in a tragic work accident in Donegal this week paid him a warm tribute as they prepared to say a final goodbye.

Ian Smith (65), who lived in the townland of Ardvarny, between Ederney and Kesh, died while working on a Deane Public Works Ltd construction site at the Gweedore Station Bridge, Coisclady on Monday.

A search operation, involving an Irish Coast Guard helicopter, divers, Gardai and the fire service, was launched after Mr. Smith fell into the water at around 11am.

His body was recovered from the water by divers just under four hours later.
The Health and Safety Authority has confirmed that an investigation into the incident is ongoing.

Mr. Smith’s funeral service was held in Ardess Parish Hall at 2pm on Thursday, with interment afterwards in the adjoining cemetery.

A digger driver and general labourer who had worked for Deane Public Works Ltd for 34 years, Mr. Smith was a widower whose wife Rebecca Elizabeth (Rita) had died 10 years ago.

He was also pre-deceased by his sister Ann Gault, but is survived by brothers Ashley and Richard, as well as the wider family circle.

In a statement released to The Impartial Reporter on Wednesday morning, his family said: “Ian, who was affectionately known to us as ‘Micko’, was a hard worker, the backbone of the Smith family, who could always be relied upon to help out with any DIY projects and family matters. He had a concern for everyone’s welfare and loved family get-togethers.

“He will be sadly missed by all concerned.”

Manus O’Kane, marketing and business development manager at Deane Public Works Ltd, said that Mr. Smith had been a “well-respected and highly valued” member of the company.

“We are all extremely shocked and devastated at this tragic loss and extend our deepest sympathies to the entire family circle, friends and colleagues at this most difficult time,” he added.

The 65 year old had lived in Ardvarny all his life and was a member of Dromard LOL 284, the Kesh branch of the Apprentice Boys and the North Fermanagh Ulster Scots Association.

He had been deeply involved with the efforts to build a new hall at Dromard, near Kesh.

A message posted on the North Fermanagh Ulster Scots Dromard Hall Project page this week stated: “We have lost a good friend and worker who spent Saturday clearing out the hall in readiness for the contractors moving on-site.”

Fermanagh and South Tyrone MLA, Rosemary Barton, who lived in the same area as Mr. Smith, offered her heartfelt sympathy to his family.

Mrs. Barton said: “He was a very quiet, unassuming and hard working man who was from a well-known family in the Kesh area, who had been working with with a local contractor for a long number of years.

“Speaking with him at a function over Christmas, he was very much looking forward to the New Year and the building of the new hall at Dromard, which he had a great interest in.”

Mr. Smith was the outgoing President of the Kesh Mitchelburne Branch Club of the Apprentice Boys.

He was due to hand over the reins to his successor next Monday evening.

Meanwhile, Fermanagh and South Tyrone MP, Michelle Gildernew, has described Mr. Smith’s death as a “terrible tragedy”.

She said: “I want to pass on my condolences to the family and friends of Ian Smith. There is no doubt the wider community will also be shocked by the tragic loss of a friend and neighbour.”