Thursday 21 February 2019

Tree-fall victim a 'gentle giant just trying to do good' - brother

Michael Pyke, who was killed during storm Ophelia
Michael Pyke, who was killed during storm Ophelia

The brother of one of the men who died in Storm Ophelia has paid an emotional tribute to "a great man" and "a gentle giant".

Michael Pyke (31) was trying to cut a fallen tree in Cahir, Co Tipperary, with a chainsaw when tragedy stuck shortly after midday on Monday.

Gardai believe he was attempting to move the tree on the Cahir-Ardfinnan road when another tree hit him on the head.

Emergency services were called but Mr Pyke was pronounced dead at the scene.

Speaking yesterday, Michael's brother, Philip, said: "He was trying to do good.

"He was trying to open the road that was closed. He would help a lot of people. He was a great man, a big strong man.

"Michael was bigger than me," an emotional Philip told RTE Radio One's News at One. "I'm six foot, he's six foot two, he's the most gentle giant you'd ever meet.

"He'd take his heart out of his chest and give it to you if he could.


"You could ring him at 3 or 4am - and I've done it. I was broke down and he was there 10 minutes afterwards."

Another family member said Michael did not leave the house with the intention to clear the tree, but had decided to do a good deed in the height of the storm.

"The tree just came down in a freak accident, you can't put it into words," he said.

Michael's sister, Linda, said that "everyone loved Michael".

"It's so sad to think he's gone," she said. "He was the apple of my dad's eye," she added.

"It's horrible. So many people love him. I hope they treasure him and keep him in their minds forever."

Clare O'Neill (58) also lost her life when the car she was driving was hit by a tree at 11.40am outside the village of Aglish, in Co Waterford.

She was due to celebrate her 59th birthday yesterday.

Ms O'Neill's mother, who is in her 70s, was a passenger in the car.

She was injured in the incident and was taken to Waterford Regional Hospital.

Her injuries have been described as non-life threatening.

Ms O'Neill worked as an oncology nurse for more than three decades and recently worked as cancer support co-ordinator with the Cork ARC Cancer Support House.

"She was a very jolly woman, very helpful," said local shopkeeper Richard Hurley.

"It's a big shock. It's a miserable morning, a young woman dying like that in such a tragic accident."

Later in the day, married man Fintan Goss died when a tree hit his car in the Ravensdale area of Dundalk, Co Louth.

It is understood Mr Goss, who was his 30s, had been travelling home from work early due to the storm.

He lived in Ravensdale with his wife and two children.

Cllr John McGahon (FG) said: "He will be greatly missed by his friends, family and the local community."

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