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Arson attack on memorial to drowning victims

THE burning of a memorial bench to three local people who drowned over 40 years ago has been described as “an attack on the community”.

The bench was destroyed as a result of the fire behind Riverview Park on the Hospital Road on Sunday evening.

It had been installed by the Blair Memorial Flute Band over ten years ago to remember those who had lost their lives in the tragic event at Lovers’ Retreat in June 1975.

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Brothers Drew and John Blair, aged 25 and 23, tried to rescue 15-year-old Heather Birney who was drowning. Sadly, the brothers’ efforts were unsuccessful and all three tragically drowned in the event. The young men had been members of a newly formed flute band in the Omagh area and, on request of the Blair family, it was decided that the band would be named in their memory.

The incident is not believed to be sectarian but a spokesperson for the band said, “This is not only an attack on the band, but also the community and the families that lost their loved ones on that day.

“Why or what was the point in attacking the memorial bench? We would like to understand the logic of those behind this disgusting act.”

Local UUP councillor Chris Smith added, “I hope the police can do something but this is a public place with no cameras. The council will do what it can to clean up the damage and get a replacement as soon as possible. It’s more of the emotional impact this will have because of what the bench represents and the history behind it.”

The police are appealing for anyone who witnessed the incident or who has any information that can assist with the investigation to contact officers in Omagh Police Station on 101 quoting reference number 1541 08/07/18.

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