A FORMER Magherafelt council chairman became one of the many victims of the big freeze when he fell and broke his ankle.
Bertie Montgomery, from Tobermore, said he was powerless to prevent his tumble in a car park in Coleraine, after travelling to an event which – as it turned out – had been cancelled due to the weather.
“There was little that I could do, I had been taking it as carefully as I could but it all happened so fast.” said Mr Montgomery, who as an independent unionist served as the chair of Magherafelt District Council on four occasions.
“I had just got out of the car and locked it and when I started to walk, my feet just completely left me.
“It is still quite painful and I have a plaster cast from my toes to my knee, but I must praise the work of the medical staff who treated me.
“It was typical really, I set off for Coleraine at 6.40am for the event which was to start at 8am. The roads were terrible but I got there eventually and then this happens.
“I then found out that the function had been cancelled anyway – so it was just one of those days.”
Reflecting on the controversy surrounding the salting and gritting of footpaths, Mr Montgomery said he fully appreciates the size of the task facing local authorities.
“During my time in council this problem arose often, but we never saw anything like this winter,” said Mr Montgomery, who now spends much of his time involved with local community work.
“I have a lot of sympathy for the council here in Magherafelt.
“They are doing their best, but I don’t think anyone can expect them to clear every pavement in every village in the district.
“There are many people here in Tobermore, some of them elderly, who either have no heating because they have run out of oil, or else their pipes have frozen, which has stopped the heating.
“Hopefully I’ll get on my feet soon, but I know there are many other people suffering through this terrible winter.”
Hospitals across Northern Ireland are still facing an increase in the number of ice-fall victims attending casualty, but not on the scale it was feared.
It is understood, however, that the number of patients suffering from respiratory conditions has risen over the recent cold snap.
A spokesman for the Western Health and Social Care Trust said their emergency departments are “coping well”.