Shock at death of former Ballycastle man

TRIBUTES have poured in for a Ballycastle cyclist who was killed in an incident in Australia.

John Foss, 60, was a dedicated sea rescue volunteer who helped four people caught in rough seas just an hour before he was allegedly run down in the deliberate hit-and-run.

Mr Foss was riding his motorised bike on Coolamon Scenic Drive, Mullumbimby, about 10.30am on Tuesday, when he was hit from behind by a white van, police said.

The 53-year-old driver of the Toyota Hiace allegedly failed to stop.

A member of the emergency services found Mr Foss, who later died in Mullumbimby Hospital.

James Andrew Mitchell, 53, of Nashua, has been charged murder and dangerous driving occasioning death.

“We are aware that both parties knew each other prior to the incident and apparently there was some animosity between them,” a police spokesman said.

Mr Foss had been a volunteer with Marine Rescue NSW at Brunswick Heads for three years and was involved in a rescue operation at Brunswick River bar shortly before his death, his team leader Owen Danvers said.

“A boat capsised crossing the bar, four people were tipped into the water,” Mr Danvers said.

“They were washing up on the beach.”

Mr Foss got in a boat to rescue them, but they washed up on shore and he was part of a team that helped them as they came out of the water, Mr Danvers said.

“He went home, got changed, jumped on his bike and was heading into Mullumbimby when the tragedy happened.”

Mr Danvers said Mr Foss gave much of his time to others.

“He was very much involved in the local community,” he said.

“He’ll be sadly missed by all members of Marine Rescue Brunswick - he filled a fairly big hole in our organisation.”

Mr Foss had developed his own business, called Fosscati, making customised motorised bikes.

According to the Fosscati website the bikes were made in a “quest to build a sustainable, economical, reliable and beautiful motored bicycle that is fun to ride”.

Former Sotheby’s auctioneer Robert Bleakley knew Mr Foss better than most, both overseas and in Australia, having first met him 28 years ago.

“He was an amazing guy as demonstrated by the way he’s endeared himself to so many people since he’s lived on the Northern Rivers,” he said.

“His enormous intellect was sometimes concealed by his boyish playfulness - he could really muck around big-time and he was just enormous fun to have around.

Builder Graeme Miller remembers a dedicated perfectionist who spent hours in his workshop. “Years back I had this vintage Ducati and he just loved it - particularly the precision engineering - so I imagine that’s how he ended up calling his bikes Fosscatis,” he said.

“But he loved his rescue work - the decency of helping people and the excitement. If he wasn’t doing that he was building his bikes - he was so adamant about the quality he wouldn’t sell them to people he didn’t think would look after them.

“I’m still in shock, it’s so hard to fathom, just when he was getting settled he gets hammered.”

Moyle Independent councillor Seamus Blaney knew Mr Foss personally and said he emigrated about 30 years.

“He was a quiet fella,” said Cllr Blaney.

“But always very friendly. It’s a shock.”

Mr Foss was a past pupil of Ballycastle High School and grew up at Rathlin Road.

The Northern Star in Australia, reported Mr Foss was popular and known for his sense of humour.

He was also known as Giacomo Fosscati - a pseudonym he used for his business.

Mitchell did not appear in in Lismore Local Court on Thursday to answer the charge of murder.

No plea was entered and bail was refused.

REPORT: CHRIS KILPATRICK