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Sunday 24 September 2017

Body found in Killarney after search for missing businessman

James Gleeson's body was found in the rubble
James Gleeson's body was found in the rubble
DEVASTATION: The scene at Brewery Lane, Killarney, Co Kerry, following an explosion.

Maeve Sheenan

A body has been found in Killarney as gardai searched for a businessman after a gas explosion ripped through his launderette early yesterday.

James Gleeson, who is in his 50s, was unaccounted for after the explosion reduced his premises, in the heart of Killarney, Co Kerry, to rubble.

The body has been taken to Tralee General Hospital.

The blast – shaking the town centre – took place at around 6.20am yesterday morning.

Locals said Mr Gleeson went to the launderette early most mornings to start up the machines. He was due to drive to Kilkenny afterwards to join his wife Grace and their son on a family break. He never arrived.

Gardai and emergency services began searching through the debris of the building yesterday afternoon and the search resumed this morning.

Cathal Walshe, a local Fine Gael councillor, last night said there were growing fears for Mr Gleeson's safety.

"The town is in shock. There is an air of gloom around the town as we speak," Mr Walshe told the Sunday Independent.

The blast shook the town centre, shattering the windows of several adjoining businesses. The windows and front door of a nearby grocery shop were blown out.

Two hotels, The International and The Ross, were evacuated. Gardai and locals became concerned about Mr Gleeson when they failed to contact him, either on his phone or at his home.

Health and safety officers examined the building before garda forensics teams and emergency services moved in to sift through the rubble.

Their examination of the scene was expected to last until nightfall.

A small number of people suffered minor injuries.

The launderette is close to Kenmare Square.

Several streets were closed and motorists were advised to avoid the area.

Sean O'Grady, a Labour Party councillor who visited the scene, said the building was "a big pile of rubble".

He said emergency services had been at the scene from early yesterday but were unable to enter the building.

Kerry County Council communications officer Padraig Corkery said the priority was to secure the building and surrounding areas.

He said most of the building had collapsed and that health and safety officers had to inspect it before the emergency services and gardai could begin investigating.

The International Hotel, which backs on to the building where the explosion occurred, posted this statement on its website yesterday: "Due to an explosion in a neighbouring building, our hotel has had to be evacuated this morning at 6.30am. All guests and staff are safe and accounted for. All of our guests are being accommodated in neighbouring hotels.

"While we can't confirm when we will have access to the hotel, we are taking the precaution that guests will have to be moved to alternative hotels until we can properly access the situation.

"For further updates please visit our website www.killarneyinternational. com and our Facebook page for regular updates."

Irish Independent

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