herald

Monday 25 September 2017

Irish author Bree (42) is killed in Libya air crash

AN IRISH novelist killed in the Libyan air disaster was on her way to London to sign a dream book deal.

Brigid 'Bree' O'Mara (42) has been described as "the most talented, generous and funny person" by her devastated family.

She was among 103 people who died when an Afriqiyah Airways jet exploded and disintegrated on impact in the Libyan capital, Tripoli.

A 10-year-old Dutch boy who survived the accident has been described as "truly a miracle".

Ms O'Mara, an award-winning author, was due to board a connecting flight from Libya to London, after her initial plans to travel there last month were interrupted by the volcanic ash cloud.

Her sister Aideen Pidgeon said: "She was just the most amazing person."

The Herald understands that her husband Chris Leach only learned of the tragedy while browsing on the internet yesterday.

Today, he described her as "a kind and wonderful woman".

Ms O'Mara spent most of her life between the UK and South Africa and was living in Pretoria at the time of her death.

However, she travelled on an Irish passport and is said to have been extremely proud of her heritage. On her personal website she boasted that she was "raised on a steady diet of Irish wit".

Her mother came from Rush in North Co Dublin, while her father is a native of Tipperary.

Explaining her family background in her online biography, Bree wrote: "They [my parents] had eloped to Africa from Ireland to get married. It caused an outrage in the Emerald Isle!"

The dead woman was an acclaimed writer and previously Citizen Book Prize Winner for satirical novel Home Affairs.

News of her death has shocked the literary and arts circles in South Africa.

In recent months, she had been working on two new books and had completed one which was based in London.

She was flying to the UK to finalise details with her publishers and was due to handover the finished manuscript to her agent.

Ms O'Mara had intended to do this last month but her plans to attend the London Book Fair from April 22-24 were grounded by the volcanic ash cloud.

At various stages, Ms O'Mara had worked as a ballet dancer, TV producer and air hostess.

Ms Pidgeon explained that the couple actually met on a plane.

"He is devastated... The two of them met on an aircraft. He was flying to Grahamstown to spend time with his father and she was flying to Durban to see our mother at the time (of their meeting)."

In a statement, Foreign Affairs Minister Micheal Martin explained that his officials had attended the scene of the accident in Libya.

"The Irish Ambassador to Libya (who is normally based in Rome) is in Tripoli with another consular official and is in close contact with the authorities in Libya in relation to the tragic loss of this flight," he said.

Aviation experts have begun an investigation into the cause of the accident that claimed the lives of 92 passengers and 11 crew.

The flight recorders have been recovered and handed over to analysts for clues.

It is thought that 61 of the dead came from the Netherlands, while at least 22 were from Libya. Other passengers included nationals from Britain and France.

hnews@herald.ie

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