The UDA forced campfire builders at Larne to compete with “record-breaking” pyres or face canings

Campfire builders, where tragic father John Steele fell to his death, have been forced to set up the massive inferno or face paramilitary beatings, the Sunday World has learned.

Sources at the Larne estate in Antiville are furious and have said they will never forgive the UDA enforcers who were demanding a pyre to rival the record-breaking bonfire at nearby Craigyhill.

And it turns out that John Steele tragically died when he was accidentally hit in the head by a flying pallet.

The pallet hit the man from Larne with such force that he lost his footing before falling 50 feet to his death.


The Antiville bonfire at Larne where Mr Steele lost his life

“Everyone involved with the Antiville campfire is absolutely devastated about John, but the truth must come out. He was hit in the head by a pallet,” a local resident told Sunday World.

But a source close to the tragic John told us the community is “angry” at how men have been forced to build the campfire higher and higher under threat of beatings – and that no harnesses have been provided despite promises.

The source also said bonfire builders were “in parts” at the funeral and would need counseling to get over the traumatic fall of death. “You can’t get that punch out of your head,” the source said.

Today we are also revealing details of a special investigation into the inner workings of the South East Antrim UDA in the Larne area and its connection to the Craigyhill and Antiville bonfires.


John’s family collapses when his coffin leaves his home on Thursday

The loyalist terrorist group likes to keep control of the building of campfires and the illegal drug trade in housing developments in Larne and elsewhere.

But the disadvantaged communities of Antiville and Craigyhill are fed up with living under the paramilitary boot.

And many of them now believe that the tragic death of John Steele could be a turning point on the road to change.

“John just didn’t fall off the campfire, he was hit by a pallet. It blew him away. I could get in serious trouble if I tell you, but people need to know what happened here,” one man said.


John Steele’s coffin passes the bonfire site

It is understood PSNI investigators will now look into this as a new line of inquiry after receiving full details from Sunday World.

At around 9:35 p.m. last Saturday, father of two, John, fell to his death from a campfire he helped set up.

The tragedy happened in a lawn on Larnes Antiville estate, where John Steele had lived his whole life.

Despite boasts that construction workers on nearby Craigyhill wore seat belts, none were provided to the men and boys who built the bonfire at Antiville.

“This was an accident waiting to happen. Building the world’s largest bonfire at Craigyhill was all about ego. But it was also about next-gen control,” a source said.

“It was a recipe for disaster and the disaster happened at eight thirty last Saturday night when John Steele fell to his death.

“John shouldn’t have been near that campfire. He didn’t want to be there, but he was given no choice,” said another resident.

“Don’t get me wrong, he loved making bonfires. All the guys here are campfire trained. But they wanted to get wider, not taller. The pressure they were under was unreal.”

Friends and neighbors fought to save the 36-year-old until medical experts and paramedics arrived. And they all fought desperately for about 50 minutes, but to no avail.

John died at the scene within sight of his parents Arty and Jackie’s home on the Lindara estate. The property overlooks the Antiville campfire.

Communities in Antiville and Craigyhill are stunned by the sudden death of the popular young man who was caring for his two young children.

The bonfire was torn down by the local council shortly after it was raised by locals.

But after John’s death, the SEA UDA decided that the bonfire at Craigyhill – a few hundred yards away – would be burned down.

A Liverpool football fanatic, John was well known and loved on the Antiville and Craigyhill estates, where he had previously worked as a window washer.

His funeral on Thursday afternoon was an emotional affair, with many weeping as John’s coffin was carried out of his parents’ home to the tune of the Merseyside anthem You’ll Never Walk Alone.

Local UDA leaders attended John Steele’s funeral but kept a considerable distance from the proceedings.

“You were embarrassed. But things will get back to business at the weekend,” one woman told us.

“At the vigil you had grown men crying – they were heartbroken. These guys need advice – they can’t get the bang out of their heads.”


A crane pulls down the campfire after John Steele’s death

John’s mother, Jackie – who, like her son, was also born and raised in Antiville – was too upset to stand outside her terrace house and hear local Presbyterian minister Reverend Ben Preston address the crowd.

But her husband Arty stood near his only son’s coffin as the minister told the mourners: “John’s death has touched so many. This community in Antiville and Craigyhill is so touched by what has happened.

“Watch how John’s death is a catalyst for good, not hate,” he added.

Mid and East Antrim Council Deputy Mayor Beth Adgey said: “John Steele should never have been near a campfire.”

The Sunday World spotted the red hand of the South East Antrim UDA – an illegal drug trafficking organization – hiding behind campfire buildings in Larne and elsewhere.

The renegade loyalist faction has thousands of members in Rathcoole, Carrickfergus and Larne. Many of these members want out but can’t unless they come up with thousands of pounds.

John Steele had been building bonfires in Antiville since he was a child and was still working on the bonfires after becoming a father to two children.

But last year he suddenly became seriously ill and was hospitalized.

John remained in intensive care for two weeks but eventually returned home to Antiville.

Weeks later, while he was still recovering, UDA men challenged John for his turn to build the campfire.

It was the same this year. Many locals claim it’s obvious that John still has a long way to go to make a full recovery. But the UDA forced him to build fires.

“John should never have been near a campfire. He was still not well enough. He didn’t want to be there but they forced him to be,” said a local.

And John knew what was to come if he had refused. Several local men from the area were beaten for not showing up at the campfire.

“Some guys in Antiville were ‘smashed up’ and the news spread like wildfire. Boys were afraid to refuse,” a local mother told us.

The UDA forced every man under their control to pay £25 a head for pallets and another £20 for the crane when the campfire got higher. The UDA forced campfire builders at Larne to compete with “record-breaking” pyres or face canings

Fry Electronics Team

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