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Last Updated: Thursday, 6 November, 2003, 14:30 GMT
Tributes to 'brave' firefighter
Fireman's funeral cortege
Officer's family was supported by hundreds of firefighters
A firefighter who died tackling an arson attack at a County Londonderry hotel was brave and dedicated, mourners at his funeral have been told.

Dungiven came to a standstill on Thursday for the funeral of part-time firefighter Joe McCloskey, 50, who died after falling through the roof of a storeroom at the Gorteen House Hotel in Limavady.

The father-of-five suffered extensive burns during the early morning fire on Saturday and died in hospital on Sunday.

Thousands of people lined the streets of Dungiven and shops and businesses closed as a mark of respect to Mr McCloskey during his funeral Mass.

The cortege was led to St Patrick's Church in the town by two fire engines and a lone piper and Mr McCloskey's wife, Marie, and children Sean, Siobhan, Seamus, Colleen and Breige were supported by relatives.

He was very much the heartbeat of the station, he had over 25 years' service and he will be extremely hard to replace
Peter McDermott
Friend
About 500 firefighters were among the mourners and his coffin was carried by his Dungiven colleagues.

Father Andrew McCloskey told mourners that he had been a brave and dedicated firefighter and a devoted family man.

He said Mr McCloskey's death would be a great loss to the community.

Mr McCloskey's friend and fellow firefighter Peter McDermott said he had been a quiet man who often brought a smile to his colleagues' faces.

"He was very much the heartbeat of the station, he had over 25 years' service and he will be extremely hard to replace. I doubt very much if we will be able to replace him."

A minute's silence was held at fire stations across the UK and in New York.

Joe McCloskey
Mr McCloskey served in the Fire Brigade for 25 years
Deputy Chief Fire Officer Louis Jones said the service was in mourning.

"It is always a shock when something like this happens, indeed, it's a tragedy but the Fire Service goes on," he said.

"Joe served the community and we will continue to serve the community as well."

Mr McCloskey was the first firefighter to be killed on duty in Northern Ireland in almost 10 years. He had served in a station just yards from his home.

He was on one of six appliances that were called to the hotel to put out a fire in a storeroom.

The police have appealed for information from anyone who was in the area who may have seen how the fire started.

They are also anxious to speak to patrons of Jenson's nightclub at the hotel.

Trained counsellors have been brought in to help five of Mr McCloskey's colleagues who suffered minor injuries trying to rescue him.

They were treated in hospital for the effects of breathing in smoke, but were all later discharged.




WATCH AND LISTEN
BBC NI's Kieron Tourish reports
"A lone piper led the mourners from Joe McCloskey's home"



SEE ALSO:
Fatal hotel fire 'malicious'
04 Nov 03  |  Northern Ireland
Appeal for fatal blaze information
03 Nov 03  |  Northern Ireland
Firefighter dies following blaze
02 Nov 03  |  Northern Ireland


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