Runner who died during Belfast Marathon was heroic PSNI officer

The man who died tragically during Monday’s Belfast marathon was a police officer who had been commended for his bravery.

He was named on Wednesday as Limavady man Stephen Heaney, aged 50.

Stephen Heaney pictured on the morning of the Belfast Marathon

Stephen Heaney pictured on the morning of the Belfast Marathon

He died six miles into the race, which was his first marathon.

In 2009 the PSNI constable received a Royal Humane Society bravery award for rescuing a man from a burning building along with another officer.

According to reports at time Mr Heaney broke down the door of a flat in Benevenagh Drive in Limavady and brought a man in his 50s to safety while colleague Suzanne McIlwaine roused neighbours, tasked the fire brigade and administered medical help to the injured party before an ambulance arrived.

Police named Mr Heaney as the man who had died during the Belfast Marathon in a press release to all media; however, they would not comment further on Mr Heaney in a professional capacity.

Stephen Heaney (right) receives a Royal Humane Society award for bravery from Chief Superintendent David Hanna

Stephen Heaney (right) receives a Royal Humane Society award for bravery from Chief Superintendent David Hanna

Mr Heaney leaves behind two daughters – Rebecca and Victoria.

Posting to Facebook on Tuesday evening, Victoria said: “I hoped that today I would have been congratulating you on completing your first marathon yesterday.

“God had other plans and decided to take away the best man of my life, a role model, through being a Dad, a supporter, a sports player and a gentleman to everyone he crossed.

“Rest easy Daddy, I love you so much and I’m so so proud of you.”

DUP councillor Alan Robinson said: “The community in Limavady has been stunned by the news of Stephen’s death. My thoughts are with his family at this terrible time.”

He said Mr Heaney was well known in Limavady and came from a respected family.

Limavady distance runner David McGaffin of Springwell Running Club said although he did not know Mr Heaney, his death had cast a shadow over the town.

“My sympathy goes out to his family,” said Mr McGaffin.

“It fills me with sadness to learn of Stephen’s death, and the death of Matt Campbell at the London marathon last month.

“I don’t know the circumstances of how the tragedy unfolded at the Belfast Marathon, but what I would say in general is that a marathon is something that cannot be undertaken lightly.”

Mr Heaney’s funeral will take place in Christ Church, Limavady on Friday at 2pm, followed by his interment in the adjoining churchyard.

A request has been made for family flowers only, with any donations going to Macmillan Cancer Support.