A young jockey about to celebrate his 18th birthday has died in a freak accident.
The rising star jockey, who had ridden for champion horse trainer Enda Bolger and owner JP McManus, was killed in Co Limerick as he collected felled trees damaged in recent storms.
Friends of Ryan Cusack, from Murroe, Co Limerick, told of their shock after he died in a field near the Bolger training yard at Howardstown House, Co Limerick.
He fell from a trailer attached to a tractor which had been collecting trees damaged in the recent storms.
There was widespread shock and sadness at the Bolger yard as Mr Cusack's friends and colleagues tried to come to terms with his sudden passing.
The young jockey had been earmarked as a bright horse racing star, even though he had only began to carve out a career in the saddle.
Paying tribute, fellow trainee jockey Cathal Courtney (18), from Kildare, said: "It's terrible. He was such a nice bubbly young fella and he really enjoyed what he did."
Trevor Ryan, who has been training to be a jockey at the Bolger yard for the past year-and-a-half and who was a close friend of the deceased, described Mr Cusack as being "as sound a fella as you would ever come across".
He described how Mr Cusack had recently broken through the ranks this year, securing his first three rides on Phar and Away, trained by Enda Bolger and owned by JP McManus.
Mr Cusack was also looking forward to celebrating his 18th birthday next Wednesday.
He is survived by his parents, Vincent and Martina, brother Barry and sister Holly.
The Cusack family are well known in horse and hunting circles. His uncle, Liam, runs a small stable yard and is also a former jockey.
Workers said Mr Bolger was currently training 16 jockeys from all over the country at his stable yard, located between Bruree and Athlacca.
Mr Ryan said everyone at the yard was heartbroken following the tragedy.
"You keep expecting him to come around the corner. It feels like a nightmare you just want to wake up from," he said.
Workers said Mr Bolger had left Howardstown House to meet and pay his respects with the deceased's family at University Hospital Limerick, in the city, where Mr Cusack's body was brought for a post-mortem.
Gardai at Bruff are investigating the incident, as is the Health and Safety Authority.