Frost and snow turn Ballycastle into skating rink for hapless motorists

AN experienced bus driver says the conditions he encountered in Ballycastle last week were amongst the worst he has ever seen.

Brian Bailey was driving his Express bus back to Ballycastle from Belfast when he hit a sheet of ice on Castle Street forcing him to continually bump off the footpath in an effort to get the vehicle halted.

A hail shower had fallen on top of crushed snow forming a film of clear ice over the street and turning it into a skating rink.

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Motorists in Ballycastle said they had never before seen conditions as bad and the result was total gridlock for about an hour as efforts were made to untangle the chaos.

Brian had begun his shift at 6.30 a.m. heading off for Belfast. On the way to his work he had noticed the gritter out around the town and has no doubt the streets were treated.

It was the return joourney just after 11 a.m. that saw him run into trouble.

Having dropped his last passenger off at the Jet Service Station Brian was looking forward to parking up his vehicle and enjoying a cup of hot tea.

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Instead, he had to call on all his experience to deal with a situation the outcome of which could have been potentially serious.

"I noticed a lorry parked on the proper side of the road and I assumed the driver was making deliveries. I simply followed other vehicles past it and that's when I ran into trouble. I went down the hill without having any control of the bus and had there been vehicles parked on the left hand side I could have been in serious bother.

"I had to bounce the bus off the kerb to get it stopped and fortunately for me I managed to bring it to a halt.

"Ann Street and Market Street were just as bad and it was one of those things when a shower froze over the melted snow.

They were amongst the worst conditions I have ever seen.

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"I wasn't the only one having problems. There was a lorry stuck at the bottom of the street and one at the top.

"A police landrover drove past, but they probably realised there was little they could do at that point and stopping might have led to more problems.

"Even the gritter had difficulty getting up the street."

Brian has driven vehicles in both Canada and Germany where winter is notoriously dangerous.

It is understood that the PSNI made efforts to contact the Roads Service to address the situation and then got a local farmer to come out to try and clear the streets.

Minor accidents were reported on Ann Street and Market Street with traders claiming the conditions were dreadful.