Council opens investigation into death of man in fall from bonfire in Larne

More than £6,000 raised to support family of John Steele, who died in incident on local authority land in Antiville estate

A local authority has opened an investigation into the death a man who fell from a bonfire he was helping to build on its land in Larne, Co Antrim.

John Steele, a window cleaner aged in his 30s, died on Saturday night following the accident at a site on the Antiville estate. The father-of-two was pronounced dead at the scene after falling from the 50ft pyre.

Mid and East Antrim Council confirmed on Monday that an investigation is underway into the incident.

The bonfire was taken down on Sunday and the remnants were set alight at a vigil for Mr Steele, who was from the Antiville area.


The council said that while the construction and lighting of bonfires “are not council-managed events”, it “works closely with relevant statutory partners and the community in relation to bonfires throughout the area”.

In a statement, it added: “We are deeply shocked and saddened at the death of a young man in Larne on Saturday night and our thoughts and prayers are with his family and friends at this awful time.

“The council has developed a Cultural Celebrations Working Group with the aim of strengthening partnerships between local community leaders and statutory partners to encourage safe and responsible cultural celebrations.

“As this tragedy occurred on council land, we have launched an investigation.”

Meanwhile, almost £6,500 had been raised by Monday evening for the Steele family through a JustGiving page. The fundraiser was set up by the Antiville community to provide support towards Mr Steele’s funeral costs.

The page said: “The whole town is shook at this devastating news and our hearts go out to Artie , Jackie, Kitty, his two daughters Caitlin and Macy-Lee, Catrina and the whole family circle. You will be sorely missed, John.”

Bonfire builders in the nearby Craigyhill estate had vowed to break a world record for the tallest bonfire as a tribute to Mr Steele.

The wooden tower was measured using lasers and a drone on Monday and found to be 202.3ft high. The current world record for the highest bonfire is 198ft, set in Lustenau in Austria in 2019.

Around 250 bonfires have been built in loyalist areas across the North. They are lit on July 11th, the eve of the Twelfth of July Orange Order parades, to commemorate the victory of the Protestant King William of Orange, over the Catholic King James II at the Battle of the Boyne in 1690.

Brian Hutton

Brian Hutton is a freelance journalist and Irish Times contributor