Wednesday 18 October 2017

Devastated parents remember 'amazing, outgoing and considerate' Grace

(Clockwise from back left) Grace McDermott with friends Katie Kelleher, Paul Lowndes, Jessie Dowling and Diarmuid Ó Conghaile on Inis Mór last August
(Clockwise from back left) Grace McDermott with friends Katie Kelleher, Paul Lowndes, Jessie Dowling and Diarmuid Ó Conghaile on Inis Mór last August

Alan O'Keeffe and Catherine Devine

The victim of a tragic house fire, Grace McDermott, was "an amazing, outgoing, considerate person" who helped people and sought to empower women, said a close friend last night.

Paul Lowndes (35) said he and Grace's many friends in Ireland were "completely devastated".

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

"Grace was so vibrant and full of energy. She was a great unifier for all her friends and had organised several re-unions," he said.

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

As part of her course, she spent a college semester at the University of Limerick. She "fell in love with Limerick" and did her Master's degree in tourism in Limerick.

She was in a mountaineering club and was also a yoga teacher.

She was engaged to be married to Colin O'Neill, from Portmarnock, Dublin, and was lecturing at Dublin City University where she was studying for a PhD.

"Grace was a wonderful person. After she spent a year in Australia, we backpacked together through South East Asia," said Mr Lowndes.

Her parents Robert and Leslie travelled to Dublin from New York after getting the news. Grace had one sister and two brothers.

"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," he said.

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

Ms McDermott's devastated mother told the 'New York Post' that the family have been forced to swap wedding plans for funeral plans.

"She was planning her wedding to the greatest guy in the world," her heartbroken mum said at her home in the US.

"Now we'll be using the same songs, the same hymns that she wanted at her wedding, the same flowers that 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.

Gardaí are not treating the fire as suspicious.

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