Wednesday 22 November 2017

'We're devastated at fire death of amazing Grace', says friend says heartbroken pal

Grace (left) with pals Katie Kelleher, Paul Lowndes, Diarmuid O Conghaile and Jessie Dowling on Inis Mor last August
Grace (left) with pals Katie Kelleher, Paul Lowndes, Diarmuid O Conghaile and Jessie Dowling on Inis Mor last August

House fire victim Grace McDermott was "an amazing, outgoing, considerate person" who helped people and sought to empower women.

Close friend Paul Lowndes (35) said he and Ms McDermott's many friends in Ireland were "in deep shock and completely devastated".

The 26-year-old academic and bride-to-be died in a blaze at a house in Annacotty, Limerick, in the early hours of Monday.

Now the hymns and flowers that were planned for her wedding will be used for her funeral.


"Grace was so vibrant and full of energy. She was a great unifier for all her friends," Mr Lowndes said.

Ms McDermott grew up in Long Island, New York, and got her bachelor's degree at a university in the US.

Her studies included spending a college semester at the University of Limerick.

Mr Lowndes said she "fell in love with Limerick".

She completed her master's degree in tourism in the city and was a member of a mountaineering club as well as being a keen runner and a yoga teacher.

Ms McDermott was engaged to her partner, Colin O'Neill, from Portmarnock, and was lecturing at Dublin City University where she was studying for a PhD.

"Grace was a wonderful person," Mr Lowndes added.

"After she spent a year in Australia, we backpacked together through south-east Asia."

Her parents, Robert and Leslie, travelled to Dublin from New York after receiving the devastating news of their daughter's death.

"Grace's father is such a great man. In the midst of his own heartache, he called me because he was concerned about how Grace's friends were coping," Mr Lowndes said.

Mr McDermott is a lawyer in New York. Ms McDermott's mother said the same hymns and flowers she wanted for her upcoming wedding would now be used at her funeral.

Mrs McDermott told the New York Post that the family had been forced to swap wedding plans for funeral plans.

"She was planning her wedding to the greatest guy," she said. "Now we'll be using the same songs, the same hymns that she wanted at her wedding, the same flowers she wanted at her wedding, for her service.

"They say the greatest tragedy is to die and to never have lived, and she lived every second and we're blessed for that."

A woman and three male university students managed to escape from the burning house and raise the alarm.

Firefighters later removed Ms McDermott's remains from a first-floor bedroom.

Gardai are not treating the blaze as suspicious, though further tests are being carried out to determine its source.

Ms McDermott co-founded the popular academic website and blog Women Are Boring which highlights research done by women in every field from politics to technology.

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