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Plaque unveiled for firefighters who died when building collapsed in Derry

A plaque has been unveiled for two firefighters who died in Derry when a building collapsed while they were fighting a fire in it.

Leonard McCartney and Lexie Wylie died when the Meville Hotel on Foyle Street, Derry, collapsed onto them on 21 November, 1971.

On Sunday, November 20, just before the 51st anniversary of their deaths, a plaque was unveiled at the location where the incident took place.

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Mr McCartney was 42 and lived in Violet Street. He had been a firefighter based in Northland Road Fire Station for 20 years and was survived by his wife Mary and three children Audrey, Robert and Alan.

Mr Wylie was 35 and had been in the fire service for 14 years, also serving at Northland Road Fire Station. He lived with his mother and sister at their family home in Galliagh.

Both have been described in the order of service for the unveiling as “popular and valued members of the team of firefighters who protected their local community day and night through those dark and dangerous times”.

The Fire Brigades Union’s Red Plaque Scheme commemorates all firefighters who have lost their lives in the line of duty.

Plaque unveiled for Northern Ireland firefighters killed by building collapse (FBU and Trevor McBride)

Jim Quinn, FBU executive council member for Northern Ireland, said: "Leonard McCartney and Lexie Wylie were firefighters who did everything they could do to serve their communities for years. They fought fires and carried out rescues during a very dangerous period in our country.

"They carried out their duties with real bravery and lost their lives in a huge and tragic incident. It is absolutely vital that we remember them and their contributions across their time in the fire and rescue service. This plaque will go a long way to ensuring that that happens.”

(FBU and Trevor McBride)

Matt Wrack, FBU general secretary, added: "The FBU’s Red Plaque Scheme places plaques for firefighters who lost their in the line of duty as close to the place of the incident as possible. It is vital that history is remembered in the spaces it was lived. Doing that ensures that the community can really understand what happened.

"Mr McCartney and Mr Wylie were by all accounts extraordinarily brave firefighters who worked in a very difficult time for their communities. It is a privilege for the union to have a part in ensuring that they and what they did are remembered."

The Red Plaque Scheme is fully funded by proceeds from the weekly Firefighters 100 Lottery which has been able to create several Plaques each year since it began in 2017. Over time, as supporters of the Lottery continues to grow, more Red Plaques can be placed at the heart of communities affected by firefighter fatalities.

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