herald

Monday 11 December 2017

Irish musician dies in hit and run in Florida

Florida road traffic accident victim, Martin O'Connor from Frenchpark, Co Roscommon
Florida road traffic accident victim, Martin O'Connor from Frenchpark, Co Roscommon
Richard Jennings

An IRISH musician has died in an alleged hit-and-run incident in the United States.

Martin O'Connor, from Roscommon, was hit by a car shortly before 5am on Saturday morning in North Lauderdale, Florida, by a black BMW.

He was rushed to the nearby Broward Health Medical Centre but was pronounced dead shortly after arrival.

The 36-year-old father-of-two was over in the US as a member of the Declan Nerney band, who were scheduled to play several shows aboard a cruise ship.

Mr O'Connor and his two friends were on their way back to their hotel from a bar when the incident occurred.

"They had gone up the street and were drinking at a bar and were walking back to their hotel," Broward Sherrif's Office spokesperson Dani Moschella told local radio station WSVN.

"They were all on the east side on the road, not in traffic, and for some reason, one of the three left the group and walked out into traffic. He was hit by a vehicle that then fled the scene."

Band

Neither of Mr O'Connor's friends sustained any injury in the incident.

The deceased had been a member of country singer Declan Nerney's band for a number of years.

Speaking to the Herald last night, Martin's brother, Paul O'Connor, paid special tribute to him as a devoted father and husband.

"The five-piece band took the trip to Florida every year, and this was Martin's third year out there with them," he said.

"Declan Nerney has been playing music for the last 30 years, but Martin was only with the band for the past three years.

"They'd always be with a few different bands on the Caribbean cruise liner.

"They're constantly touring and have played all over England and Ireland.

"Music was Martin's passion in life and he played with different bands all his life and was a really talented drummer."

Craft

He said Martin was a full-time musician and told how he had "worked hard" all his life to perfect his craft.

"I think the band had arrived in the country the night before the accident happened. "They had a full day to relax, so that's what they were doing before boarding the ship where they were to spend a full week playing music.

"He was due to fly home next Sunday or Monday.

"They were just walking around on the night it happened; Martin was crossing the road when he was hit by the car.

"He married his wife, Valerie, in October 2003, and he has two young boys - Nathan is eight and Andrew is around five."

A 35-year-old man was arrested in relation to the incident several hours later.

Richard Jennings is alleged to have fled the scene after the collision, but an acquaintance of the suspect saw the damage done to his car and notified the Broward Sheriff's Office.

Mr Jennings was arrested at his home shortly after 6pm on Saturday evening on the charge of leaving the scene of an accident causing death.

hnews@herald.ie

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