Tuesday 27 September 2016

Dublin Fire Tragedy: The young mum who lived for her two little girls... and was 'so excited' to meet her new baby

* Ten people dead following fire
* Children and pregnant mum among fatalities
* Tributes pour in for victims

Claire McCormack and Ronald Quinlan

Published 11/10/2015 | 02:30

Kelsey and Jodie - the two young sisters who perished in a fire at their home
Kelsey and Jodie - the two young sisters who perished in a fire at their home
A tragic claimed the lives of 10 people including pregnant mum Tara Gilbert, her partner Willie Lynch and their two daughters Kelsey and Jodie
DEVASTATION: An aerial photograph shows the utter devastation at the scene from the halting site of the tragic fire at Glenmaluck Road, Carrickmines, that claimed the lives of 10 people including pregnant mum Tara Gilbert, her partner Willie Lynch and their two daughters Kelsey and Jodie
The scene of the tragic fire at Glenmaluck Road, Carrickmines
People gather at the scene of the tragic fire at Glenmaluck Road, Carrickmines, this morning
Floral tributes at the scene of the tragic fire at Glenmaluck Road, Carrickmines yesterday. Photo: Tony Gavin. Photo: Tony Gavin 10/10/2015
Fr. Derek Farrell, Parish Priest of the Parish of the Travelling Community looks at floral tributes at the scene of the tragic fire at Glenmaluck Road, Carrickmines yesterday. Photo: Tony Gavin. Photo: Tony Gavin 10/10/2015
A well wisher brings flowers to the scene of the tragic fire at Glenmaluck Road, Carrickmines yesterday. Photo: Tony Gavin. Photo: Tony Gavin 10/10/2015
Floral tributes at the scene of the tragic fire at Glenmaluck Road, Carrickmines yesterday. Photo: Tony Gavin. Photo: Tony Gavin 10/10/2015
The ambulance hearse at the entrance of the halting site of the tragic fire at Glenmaluck Road, Carrickmines where it was bringing away the bodies of the deceased victims. Photo: Tony Gavin. Photo: Tony Gavin 10/10/2015
The ambulance hearse leaves the entrance of the halting site of the tragic fire at Glenmaluck Road, Carrickmines where it was bringing away the bodies of the deceased victims. Photo: Tony Gavin. Photo: Tony Gavin 10/10/2015
An ambulance containing the bodies of the victims leaves the scene of the tragic fire at Glenmaluck Road, Carrickmines, yesterday evening. Photo: Tony Gavin. Photo: Tony Gavin 10/10/2015
The ambulance hearse leaves the entrance of the halting site of the tragic fire at Glenmaluck Road, Carrickmines where it was bringing away the bodies of the deceased victims. Photo: Tony Gavin. Photo: Tony Gavin 10/10/2015
A garda lays flowers at the scene of the tragic fire at Glenmaluck Road, Carrickmines, this morning. Photo: Tony Gavin. Photo: Tony Gavin 10/10/2015
Fire Officer Denis Keely and Garda Superintendent Martin Fitzgerald and Chief Superintendent Diarmuid O'Sullivan at the entrance of the halting site of the tragic fire at Glenmaluck Road, Carrickmines, this morning. Photo: Tony Gavin. Photo: Tony Gavin 10/10/2015
Fire Officers Gerry Stanley and Denis Keely and Garda Superintendent Martin Fitzgerald and Chief Superintendent Diarmuid O'Sullivan at the entrance of the halting site of the tragic fire at Glenmaluck Road, Carrickmines, this morning. Photo: Tony Gavin. Photo: Tony Gavin 10/10/2015
A garda lays flowers at the scene of the tragic fire at Glenmaluck Road, Carrickmines, this morning. Photo: Tony Gavin. Photo: Tony Gavin 10/10/2015
Garda Superintendent Martin Fitzgerald and Chief Superintendent Diarmuid O'Sullivan at the entrance of the halting site of the tragic fire at Glenmaluck Road, Carrickmines, this morning. Photo: Tony Gavin. Photo: Tony Gavin 10/10/2015
A garda lays flowers at the scene of the tragic fire at Glenmaluck Road, Carrickmines, this morning. Photo: Tony Gavin. Photo: Tony Gavin 10/10/2015
State Pathologist Margaret Bolster arrives at the scene of the tragic fire at Glenmaluck Road, Carrickmines, this morning. Photo: Tony Gavin. Photo: Tony Gavin 10/10/2015
Garda Superintendent Martin Fitzgerald and Chief Superintendent Diarmuid O'Sullivan at the entrance of the halting site of the tragic fire at Glenmaluck Road, Carrickmines, this morning. Photo: Tony Gavin. Photo: Tony Gavin 10/10/2015
Minister Alex White at the scene of the tragic fire at Glenmaluck Road, Carrickmines, this morning. Photo: Tony Gavin. Photo: Tony Gavin 10/10/2015
Gardai at the entrance to the halting site where the tragic fire occured at Glenmaluck Road, Carrickmines, this morning. Photo: Tony Gavin. Photo: Tony Gavin 10/10/2015
State Pathologist Margaret Bolster arrives at the scene of the tragic fire at Glenmaluck Road, Carrickmines, this morning. Photo: Tony Gavin. Photo: Tony Gavin 10/10/2015
Sandyford Parish Priest Fr. Gerry Moore, left, at the scene of the tragic fire at Glenmaluck Road, Carrickmines, this morning. Photo: Tony Gavin. Photo: Tony Gavin 10/10/2015
A garda brings flowers to the scene of the tragic fire at Glenmaluck Road, Carrickmines, this morning. Photo: Tony Gavin. Photo: Tony Gavin 10/10/2015
Local TD Shane Ross talks to Gardai at the entrance of the halting site of the tragic fire at Glenmaluck Road, Carrickmines, this morning. Photo: Tony Gavin. Photo: Tony Gavin 10/10/2015
Well wishers brings flowers to the scene of the tragic fire at Glenmaluck Road, Carrickmines, this morning. Photo: Tony Gavin. Photo: Tony Gavin 10/10/2015
Gardai and fire services at the scene of the tragic fire at Glenamuck Road, Carrickmines, this morning. Photo: Tony Gavin.
Gardai forensic services at the entrance of the halting site of the tragic fire at Glenamuck Road, Carrickmines, this morning. Photo: Tony Gavin.
Independent TD's Peter Matthews and Shane Ross at the scene of the tragic fire at Glenamuck Road, Carrickmines, this morning. Photo: Tony Gavin.
Local TD Shane Ross talks to Gardai at the entrance of the halting site of the tragic fire at Glenamuck Road, Carrickmines, this morning. Photo: Tony Gavin.
Local TD Shane Ross at the scene of the tragic fire at Glenamuck Road, Carrickmines, this morning. Photo: Tony Gavin.
Gardai and fire services at the entrance of the halting site of the tragic fire at Glenamuck Road, Carrickmines, this morning. Photo: Tony Gavin.
Scene of the tragic fire at Glenmaluck Road, Carrickmines, this morning. Photo: Tony Gavin.
A well wisher brings flowers at the scene of the tragic fire at Glenamuck Road, Carrickmines, this morning. Photo: Tony Gavin.
Gardai and fire services at the scene of the tragic fire at Glenamuck Road, Carrickmines, this morning. Photo: Tony Gavin.
Gardai and fire services at the scene of the tragic fire at Glenamuck Road, Carrickmines, this morning. Photo: Tony Gavin.

Tara Gilbert was a young mum who lived for her family and her little girls. The 27-year-old had discovered she was pregnant in August and told friends she couldn't wait for her new baby to arrive.

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On the August 10 she wrote: "Today I felt happiness that I can't even remember the last time I felt it. I'm going to be a mammy again. We are so happy and so are the girls. Another bundle of joy to [add] to our little family who I would die for," she posted.

Two weeks ago she had touchingly described how her young daughter Jodie had surprised her with a breakfast in bed of scrambled eggs saying it was for her mother and the baby.

Tara said: "She's just a little heart melter she's so excited."

She had recently purchased a pram for her new arrival and told friends she couldn't wait for her baby to arrive.

The doting mother lived for her daughters and called them "my heart and my soul" and her "rock".

A tragic claimed the lives of 10 people including pregnant mum Tara Gilbert, her partner Willie Lynch and their two daughters Kelsey and Jodie
A tragic claimed the lives of 10 people including pregnant mum Tara Gilbert, her partner Willie Lynch and their two daughters Kelsey and Jodie

Read more: Grief and eerie stillness on a day of autumnal beauty

Tributes began pouring in yesterday afternoon. Mary Lynch posted: "Just why be so cruel God? I can't believe it. Sylvia, Thomas, Tara, Willie, Jimmy and five kids gone. I can't believe it. My heart is broken in bits. My whole daddy's side of the family is gone. What are we gonna do this time? There is no way of healing the pain that everyone is going through. I really am speechless."

PIC SHOWS: Thomas Connors & Sylvia (Lynch) Connors. SAT 10-10-15
PIC SHOWS: Thomas Connors & Sylvia (Lynch) Connors. SAT 10-10-15

Another friend wrote: "My beautiful princess. I can't believe it Tara. I really can't," she added, "please God wake me up from this nightmare."

Read more here: Dublin Fire Tragedy: Poignant tribute to the 'little souls' who died in blaze  

A six-month-old baby is also among the 10 victims who lost their lives in the devastating early morning blaze at a halting site on Glenamuck Road in South Dublin.

The victims - at least five of whom were understood to be children - are believed to be from three generations of an extended Connors family from the Traveller community.

Missing and feared dead are Tara and her partner Willie Lynch and their children Kelsey and Jodie. The other missing family is Thomas and Sylvia Connors and their children Jim, Christy and Mary. The tenth missing person is Jimmy Lynch (39).

Taoiseach Enda Kenny said this morning that flags will fly at half-mast on Government buildings today following the 'unspeakable tragedy'.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny at the scene of where ten people from the traveller community died in the blaze that broke out at a halting site on Glenamuck Road in the early hours of Saturday morning. Picture by Fergal Phillips
Taoiseach Enda Kenny at the scene of where ten people from the traveller community died in the blaze that broke out at a halting site on Glenamuck Road in the early hours of Saturday morning. Picture by Fergal Phillips
Floral tributes at the scene of the tragic fire at Glenmaluck Road, Carrickmines yesterday. Photo: Tony Gavin.

He also visited the scene of the fire today and paid tribute to the victims.

It is understood the fire broke out in a prefabricated building at the temporary halting site around 4.20am on Saturday morning.

The ambulance hearse leaves the entrance of the halting site of the tragic fire at Glenmaluck Road, Carrickmines where it was bringing away the bodies of the deceased victims. Photo: Tony Gavin.
The ambulance hearse leaves the entrance of the halting site of the tragic fire at Glenmaluck Road, Carrickmines where it was bringing away the bodies of the deceased victims. Photo: Tony Gavin.

Emergency services were alerted with a phone call from a member of the public. Three fire tenders from Dublin Fire Brigade were dispatched from Dun Laoghaire, Nutgrove and Donnybrook along with a number of ambulances.

Read more: President Higgins shocked and saddened by 'most dreadful tragedy'

Fire fighters said the blaze was "substantial and well established" when they arrived at the site, located just beside Wayside Celtic football club, at 4.34am. On arrival, authorities were met by a distressed resident clutching a young child who had been rescued from the flames.

Garda Superintendent Martin Fitzgerald and Chief Superintendent Diarmuid O'Sullivan at the entrance of the halting site of the tragic fire at Glenmaluck Road, Carrickmines. Photo: Tony Gavin.
Garda Superintendent Martin Fitzgerald and Chief Superintendent Diarmuid O'Sullivan at the entrance of the halting site of the tragic fire at Glenmaluck Road, Carrickmines. Photo: Tony Gavin.
Sandyford Parish Priest Fr. Gerry Moore, left, at the scene of the tragic fire at Glenmaluck Road, Carrickmines. Photo: Tony Gavin.
Sandyford Parish Priest Fr. Gerry Moore, left, at the scene of the tragic fire at Glenmaluck Road, Carrickmines. Photo: Tony Gavin.

Assistant Chief Fire Officer Denis Kealey said there was another child removed suffering with smoke inhalation and burns.

"That child was removed from the unit with a breathing apparatus and transported to hospital. I'm not in a position at the moment to say anything about the condition of the child.

"Two adults and two children were removed from the scene by the National Ambulance Service and Dublin Fire Brigade and taken to hospital," Mr Kealey added.

A garda brings flowers to the scene of the tragic fire at Glenmaluck Road, Carrickmines. Photo: Tony Gavin.
A garda brings flowers to the scene of the tragic fire at Glenmaluck Road, Carrickmines. Photo: Tony Gavin.

At a press conference at the halting site, Chief Superintendent Diarmaid O'Sullivan offered his condolences to the families that had lost their lives or had been injured in what he described as "a terrible tragedy".

Read more here: Dublin Fire Tragedy: Travellers are 'often victims of housing crisis', claim representatives  

He said nine people had lost their lives and that a number of children were among the victims.

DEVASTATION: An aerial photograph shows the utter devastation at the scene from the halting site of the tragic fire at Glenmaluck Road, Carrickmines
DEVASTATION: An aerial photograph shows the utter devastation at the scene from the halting site of the tragic fire at Glenmaluck Road, Carrickmines

That figure was later increased to 10.

Chief Superintendent O'Sullivan said some of the children who died were as young as six months old.

Gardai say the cause of the fire is still unknown. However they suspect that the blaze started in one unit and then spread to a second unit. It is understood that there are four units at the site.

Assistant Chief Fire Officer Kealey said "we've got one unit that was fully involved in the fire and a second unit that is partially burnt".

Chief Superintendent Diarmaid O'Sullivan said: "We have no information at the moment as to how it came about."

Authorities say the unit most damaged is considered a permanent structure.

Read more: President Higgins shocked and saddened by 'most dreadful tragedy'

It is also understood that rubbish was being burned near but not in the site on Saturday evening, but it is unclear if this had anything to do with the disaster that later unfolded.

Asked by the Sunday Independent if the Government would be carrying out reviews into the safety of Traveller accommodation in view of the tragedy, Minister for Communications Alex White said: "It wasn't the appropriate time to consider the issue."

The minister declined to comment on the fact that the family had been living on the site for at least five years and may have been living in unsuitable or unsafe accommodation.

Neighbours, friends and members of the wider Carrickmines community were left reeling when news of the incident broke yesterday morning.

Many said they found out on Facebook and other social media sites.

Hours after the fire, people came to place bouquets of flowers at the gates of the site - where a large statue of the Virgin Mary cradling baby Jesus stands.

Laying a bunch of lillies at the foot of the statue, family friend Linda Clohessy said she is shocked, devastated and very concerned about a friend and her young son.

"My sister rang this morning and told me what was after happening. I couldn't believe it.

Ms Clohessy said that the family have been battling other tragedies in recent years.

"Around three years ago they lost a son in a motorbike accident, and they lost another son in tragic circumstances not too long ago, so they've been dealing with a lot of heartbreak".

Ms Clohessy, who went to primary and secondary school with a Connors family member, said the family moved to the halting site on Glenamuck Road around five years ago.

Read more: Fianna Fail's Micheal Martin cancels address at party dinner due to fire tragedy

"They lived in a house in Ballyogan for a few years and they stayed at a halting site in Sandyford Industrial Park before, but they were really happy when they got this site. They are a lovely family," she said.

Local priest Fr Gerry Moore - who has celebrated confirmation, baptisms and confirmations with the family affected - also visited the site yesterday. He said prayers with the devastated relatives at the site yesterday.

Labour Councillor Lettie McCarthy said children from the site attend local primary and secondary schools.

She also said some of the children that are feared injured played rugby for local De La Salle Palmerston club.

Sinn Fein Councillor Chris Curran said the Connors family have been in the community for a long time and that the tragedy will resonate with people from all across the district, including Ballyogan and Kilternan.

"Nothing like this has even happened before in the area, this is a quiet pleasant community. Now it's a case of focusing on the family and their needs. They have not just lost their loved ones, but many have now lost their homes as well.

It will also have a big effect on local children, so that will have to be addressed too," he said. The scene is preserved by gardai and is being examined by members of the Garda technical bureau, the Assistant State Pathologist Margaret Bolster, and other relevant agencies to assist with the investigation.

Last night the ESB erected arc lights so the forensic work could continue after nightfall.

Read more: Aerial photograph shows how horror inferno obliterated family home

Earlier yesterday, the Garda helicopter undertook aerial surveillance of the site.

A number of Garda liaison officers attended a Sandyford meeting centre to engage with the families affected by the devastating tragedy.

Gardai are appealing to anyone with information to come forward and contact Dun Laoghaire Garda Station.

Yesterday morning's tragedy is the worst fire disaster in the State since the Stardust fire in Artane, Dublin, on St Valentine's Day 1981 in which 48 young people died.

Sunday Independent

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