Creeslough petrol station explosion victim Hugh Kelly was remembered as a “happy man with a cheeky grin” at his funeral with mourners told of how he had just got the "happy news" he was in remission for cancer.
People in the Co Donegal village turned out for the seventh funeral in the community following the explosion at a service station a week ago today.
Farmer Hugh Kelly, 59, was the oldest of the 10 victims of the blast. He had brought fellow explosion victims Robert Garwe and his five-year-old daughter Shauna Flanagan Garwe to the service station shop on the evening of the blast to buy a birthday cake for her mother.
Irish president Michael D Higgins, Minister for Agriculture Charlie McConalogue and Fine Gael TD Joe McHugh were among those present at the funeral. Also attending were many of the friends and family of the other victims.
Father John Joe Duffy told Mr Kelly’s partner Linda she is “very much in their hearts” at this time.
Symbols representing different aspects of Mr Kelly’s life, including a jewellery box that he made “representing his ability to turn his hand to so many things”, a picture of him with his granddaughter to represent his love for his family, a pot of blackberry jam, reminiscent of the hours he spent picking blackberries for jam to share with others, and a recent photograph of him in a corn field, were presented at the service. Fr Duffy said: “A man who enjoyed a good time, a happy man and a cheeky grin, a man who the family knew and loved so well.”
Father John Joe Duffy spoke of the past week in the small village. He described how the families of the 10 victims of the blast remain numb and in shock. “There is still that pall of silence, that grieving and mourning, that heartbreak visible to others who enter into the homes to try and offer consolation and comfort,” he said. “Members of grieving families who have come to grieve with Hughie Kelly’s family this morning, and you are most welcome in the church and outside of the church and joining us online.
“We as a community have been helped through these days solely by the support and prayers from people within this community, from people outside of this community and from people all around the world. “The vibration of those prayers or goodwill and wishes are what is carrying us in this difficult journey.” Hugh was described as having grown up in Doe as the youngest of five siblings, and loved to spend time at the castle in the area as a child.
“He built the wall up here behind us in the car park, and someone was telling me he placed his initials in that wall,” Father John Joe Duffy continued.
“He spent time in England, and there’s a photograph of him with a colourful exotic bird… something that he posted home one time with a letter.”
The funeral also heard he could turn his hand to any job, from replacing a skirting board to making cradles, dolls and fairy doors for his nieces.
“He was someone who had determination, and he had lots of close scrapes, particularly in recent years with his cancer where he was up and down to Galway for treatment,” Mr Duffy told mourners.
“He was battling that very well and just three weeks ago he was in Galway again for a check-up where he was in remission.
"That was such happy and good news.”
Gardai have still not said how the explosion happened. A gas leak is being considered.
The other victims of the explosion were 50-year-old Robert Garwe and his five-year-old daughter Shauna Flanagan Garwe, who were in the shop to buy a birthday cake. Their funeral is to take place on Saturday. Also among the victims were 14-year-old Leona Harper, 49-year-old Martina Martin, James O'Flaherty, Jessica Gallagher, Martin McGill as well as Catherine O'Donnell and her son James Monaghan.
Help and support:
Ireland's HSE has established a support phone line for those impacted by the tragedy in Creeslough.
People should ring 087 1405138 where their call will be answered by trained HSE professionals.
The line is open Monday to Friday 9am to 5pm.
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