Rangers fans will hold a minute’s applause at the Ibrox Stadium in honour of Larne man Ryan Baird, who died in a bus crash on Saturday.
Father-of-two Mr Baird, 39, who was engaged to be married next August and had moved to Sanquhar in Scotland, tragically lost his life when the bus he was travelling in with other supporters overturned on the way to a Rangers match against Partick Thistle.
The tragedy occurred at around 1.15pm on Saturday on the A76 at the Crossroads Roundabout near Kilmarnock.
After the incident, 18 people, including members of the Nith Valley Supporters Club, were taken to hospital to receive treatment with three in a serious condition.
Police Scotland said that two men aged 19 and 61 remained in hospital, in a serious but stable condition.
A full crash scene investigation has been carried out, and enquiries into the incident are continuing.
As a mark of respect, Rangers have now invited Mr Baird’s family to Scotland for their match against St Johnstone on October 26, when a minute’s applause will be held in the 39th minute of the game.
Members of Ryan’s family are also set to travel to Scotland this Sunday for Linfield’s game against Queen of the South, when a minute’s applause will also take place in Ryan’s honour.
In addition, Constable Norman Anderson Memorial Flute Band, of which Ryan was a former member, played in Ryan’s memory in the Rangers club car park on Wednesday.
Ryan’s younger brother John told the Times that his heartbroken family had been “overwhelmed” by the support they had received from both sides of the community.
Ryan’s parents Alex and Maree are still in Scotland, and the family are awaiting the release of Ryan’s body to bring him home to Larne for burial.
“Even though Ryan had moved to Scotland his family is still in Magheramorne and the Larne area and we have been overwhelmed with the support from all sides of the community, it has been amazing,” said John.
“People have been calling at the house, sending messages on social media and even setting up fundraising accounts for the families affected and we would like to thank everyone in the community and the Rangers family for their support. The whole football family has come together, regardless of religion or scarf.”
John says Ryan was “a character” who would have “done anything for anyone.”
“He was a real family man, he had a big heart and he would have opened it to everyone, he didn’t know how to say no,” he continued.
“Ryan was jolly, cheery and jokey; he was the life and soul of the party and he would have done anything for anyone. I feel so sorry for his fiancée Sarah Hughes, they were engaged to be married in August 2017, and his twin sons Kyle and Dean. Our thoughts are also with the other people who were injured in the accident.”
Speaking on behalf of his mum Maree, John added: “My mum is absolutely devastated but overwhelmed by the support, they can’t thank people enough. “Supporters who were also injured in the crash and who can hardly walk have even visited them in Scotland to offer their support.”
Floral tributes, flags and Ryan’s band uniforms from Cairncastle Flute Band and Constable Norman Anderson Memorial Flute Band have been attached to the railings outside Larne Rangers Supporters Club. Chairman Richard Todd said Ryan had been a member of the club for about seven years.
“We held a minute’s silence at the club’s monthly meeting on Monday night in tribute to Ryan,” he revealed.
“He was a good lad and it came as such a shock to hear the news of the accident. We are going to keep the floral tributes on the railings up until the day after the funeral, and some of our supporters will travel over to Rangers to take part in the minute’s applause.”
At a council meeting on Monday night, Mayor of Mid and East Antrim Audrey Wales stated: “He was originally from the Larne area and we send our sympathies to his family at this tragic time.”