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Saturday 30 August 2014

Locals raise cash to bring home body of Thomas

Region rallies around the family of deceased son to repatriate remains

Caroline Crawford

Published 05/01/2014 | 02:30

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Thomas Keaney
Thomas Keaney

A GAELTACHT region reeling after the tragic death of a young local man in Australia have rallied around to raise vital funds to bring him home.

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Thomas Keaney, 23, from Ballyconneely, Co Galway, died in Perth on December 28, after his life support was switched off. His friends had kept a vigil by his bedside, taking it in turns to stay with him until his parents arrived on St Stephen's Day.

Plans are now being made to bring Mr Keaney's body home, with a number of Galway communities holding fundraisers to assist the family. It is expected to take another week before the remains return to Ireland. Locals in the Ballyconneely and Clifden areas have already raised thousands for the campaign.

Mr Keaney was struck on the side of the head in an incident outside a kebab shop in the city on December 17. While he had initially made a good recovery and had even spoken with his family back home, his condition deteriorated on Christmas Eve.

His worried parents Ann and Tom had to wait until St Stephen's Day before they could get a flight to Perth. His life support was switched off on December 28.

His parents made the decision to donate his organs, helping five other people to live as a result. Speaking to media outlets in Perth, Ann and Tom Keaney paid tribute to their young son and told of the last time they spoke.

"He was asking about everyone. He couldn't remember what had happened but knew he hadn't done anything wrong. I thought he's okay, he was better and it was a slight bump on the head," Mrs Keaney told journalists. By the time they reached their son's bedside, he was on life support with no chance of survival.

"Thomas looked so perfect, he looked like he was asleep, as if he'd wake up," Mrs Keaney said. The couple spoke to their three other children -- Lauren, Leann and Brian -- before making the decision to donate Thomas's organs.

"He wanted to stay in Australia and he wanted to stay another year and now he will stay and hopefully these people will have a long and healthy life and he'll be with them and they'll take him where he wanted to go," she added.

Describing their son's death as senseless, the couple urged other young people to stay away from potentially dangerous situations. "Our lives have been ruined by this . . . There will never be another Christmas, there will never be another birthday," Mrs Keaney said.

A fundraising night in Ballyconneely has already raised several thousand euro for the fund to bring Thomas home. Staff at Guy's bar in Clifden, where Mr Keaney's sister Lauren works, also donated their New Year's Eve salaries to the fund. That money will be matched by the bar owner.

A number of other events including race nights, auctions and a charity run have also been organised. Organisers say they are not putting a final figure on the amount they want to raise but that it must cover all repatriation costs, which can run to tens of thousands.

A 22-year-old local man Abbas Al Jarood has already appeared in court where he was charged with causing grievous bodily harm. This charge may be upgraded after Keaney's death.

Anyone who wishes to assist the family can do so via the Thomas Fund Facebook page or the Thomas Fund, AIB Clifden. Account number: 10129024 sort code 93-73-98.

Irish Independent

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