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Page last updated at 09:22 GMT, Friday, 16 May 2008 10:22 UK

Dunlop dies after motorbike crash


Dunlop survived a major accident on the Isle of Man TT in 1994

Motorcyclist Robert Dunlop has died at the age of 47 after suffering severe chest injuries in a crash in Thursday's practice session at the North West 200.

Another Northern Ireland rider, Darren Burns, suffered a suspected broken leg and concussion in the accident, but is said to be stable in hospital.

The accident happened in the 250cc qualifying session in County Antrim.

Dunlop's brother Joey, a legendary figure in British motorcycle circles, died while racing in Estonia in 2000.

A five-time Formula One world champion who won 26 races at the Isle of Man TT meeting, Joey's funeral was attended by 50,000 mourners.

Robert Dunlop, who holds the record for the most wins at the North West 200 meeting with 15, sustained serious injuries in a crash at the Isle of Man TT in 1994, but recovered and resumed his career.

He retired from racing in 2004 but returned to action the following year.

On Thursday he and the other riders were travelling at speeds of about 160mph as they approached the Mathers Cross section of the course in Portrush.

Dunlop's bike appeared to seize and he went over the handlebars.

He was rushed to the Causeway Hospital in nearby Coleraine, where he died from his injuries shortly after 2200 BST.

Robert will always been remembered for his infectious personality and love for road racing

Mervyn Whyte, North West 2000 clerk of course

Burns was following behind and was unable to avoid hitting the Ballymoney rider.

Another Northern Ireland rider, Denver Robb, was behind both motorcyclists when the accident happened.

"Coming up to Mathers (Cross), Burns was leading and I was second, just sitting in his slipstream," he said.

"Then Robert - it was one of the Dunlops - came past me and, as soon as he did, he just shot off into Mathers and the bike seized.

"There was a puff of smoke and the bike locked up - she went sideways - and I think Robert must have grabbed the front brake.

"He went out over the top of the bike and landed on the road. Then Burnsy had nowhere to go and he clipped him and he went straight on."

Clerk of the course Mervyn Whyte said he was devastated by the death.

Robert was one of NI's best known and most experienced riders
Robert was one of NI's best known and most experienced riders

"Our thoughts and prayers are with Robert's family and we extend our deepest sympathies to his wife Louise, children William, Daniel and Michael and wider family circle," Whyte said.

"The MCUI (UC) - Motor Cycling Union of Ireland and PSNI (Police Service of Northern Ireland) are in the process of fully investigating the incident which happened during the 125, 250, 400 practice session on the first lap.

"Robert was one of Northern Ireland's best known and most experienced riders, who will always been remembered for his infectious personality and love for road racing."

First Minister Ian Paisley and Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness said they were deeply saddened by the death.

"This is a tragedy that will be felt deeply by the people of Northern Ireland," Mr Paisley said.

"Robert was one of our greatest sportsmen and will be sadly missed."

Mr McGuinness said: "Robert, like his brother Joey before him, was a tremendous ambassador for his sport.

"I also offer my sincerest sympathies to his family."

Northern Ireland Sports Minister Edwin Poots said: "Robert was a much loved respected and talented member of the motorsport community and will be missed by all."

see also
Tributes paid to bike star Dunlop
16 May 08 |  Motorbikes
Dunlop death stuns motorcycling
16 May 08 |  Motorbikes

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