Wednesday 13 December 2017

‘I’ve lost other half of me’, says twin of halting site inferno victim Tara

Margaret Donohue, a relative of the Connors family, at the scene
Tara Gilbert, Willie Lynch, Kelsie (L) and Jodie (R)
Thomas Connors & Sylvia Connors
Fire victims Kelsey and Jodie
Baby Mary

THE TWIN sister of tragic Carrickmines blaze victim Tara Gilbert said she hopes the pregnant mum and her family “died peacefully” and didn’t suffer.

“I have lost the other half of me,” devastated Amanda Gilbert (27), said.

Meanwhile, a teenager was hailed a hero for saving a child’s life at the scene.

The tragedy happened at the site on the Glenamuck Road in Carrickmines, Co Dublin, at around 4am on Saturday.

Flames tore through a prefab, and the blaze quickly spread to a second home, leaving the victims with little chance of survival.

Tara, who was four months pregnant, died along with her partner Willie Lynch (25) and their children Jodie (9) and Kelsey (4).

Willie’s sister Sylvia Connors (25) also perished along with her husband Thomas (27) and three of their children – Jim (5), Christy (2) and five-month-old Mary.

Jimmy Lynch (39) - Willie and Sylvia’s brother was the tenth victim.

“I can’t describe the devastation,” Amanda said.

“She [Tara)] was a real mother hen, always cooking and cleaning and looking after others...

“It’s so tragic. Her fiance was lovely, he absolutely idolised her.

“I hope that she died peacefully, and they didn’t suffer.”

“Doting father” Willie had planned to take Kelsey, who had started pre-school in August, hunting with him over the weekend, according to his cousin, Sarah.

Jodie was “so bright and so clever and always so full of fun”, Sarah added.

A 14-year-old teenager was described as a hero after he saved a child from the halting-site inferno.

Speaking to the Herald, Thomas’s brother Dan (19) said the death toll could have been greater if it wasn’t for the quick thinking of his younger brother.

“My little brother braved the flames while the fire was raging. He’s only 14 – but he saved the life of a child.

“He ran in through the door, and passed two children out through the window, but one of them died. Thomas had very bad asthma, and he was on the floor, before the fire even got to him. He must have collapsed from the toxic fumes and the smoke. My little brother tried to go in again to save more people, but the fire quickly went out of control.

“He nearly died himself – he couldn’t breath.”

He said Thomas Connors “absolutely loved his wife and children”.

“They were married for seven years and moved from Clondalkin a couple of months ago.

“They planned to remain living in this location and raise their family.

“There was a total of 11 in the shed – but nobody knows for sure what caused the fire. We were in Enniskerry when we got a phone call telling us what had happened. We came straight here and everything was on fire.”


Margaret Donohue, Thomas Connors’s second cousin, said her sister phoned her with the devastating news.

“This will affect the Travelling community a lot,” said the mother-of-12 from Lucan.

“They’re saying the young girl, Tara – she was pregnant... I’m thinking did her screams wake everybody else up?”

“In 30 years, I’ve never seen this scale, this level of tragedy,” Dublin Fire Brigade assistant chief Denis Keeley said.

“I have dealt with a large number of unfortunate tragedies in my career but this was at the extreme end of anything I’ve dealt with in the past.”

“I would like to take this opportunity on behalf of the staff to offer our sincere condolences to the family,” he told RTE Radio One.

A Garda spokesman confirmed the incident was still being investigated and a technical examination is ongoing.

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