A TEENAGE girl who recently emigrated from Ireland to the United States with her family has been killed in a freak road traffic crash.
Kalie Gill (15) was killed and her younger sister Lindsey (12) was critically injured after a runaway car ploughed into them as they attended a church carnival in their adopted hometown of Woodlawn, New York.
The Gill family, originally from Fenagh, Co Leitrim, emigrated to the US during the summer, and Kalie celebrated her 15th birthday at the start of the month.
Her devastated parents, Damien and Karen, and older sister Jamie (20) are keeping a vigil at Lindsey's hospital bedside where she is said to be in a critical condition.
The family is understood to have first emigrated to the US more than a decade ago but returned to Mr Gill's native Fenagh in 2006 where he owns a pub and shop. His wife Karen is originally from Aughavas.
Locals said that, like many families in the area, the Gills had returned to the US recently due to the recession.
They decided to go back to New York and settle in the Woodlawn area where they are well known in the community and already have relatives.
On Friday evening, Kalie and Lindsey were attending an autumn fundraising carnival run by St Paul's Church in Woodlawn when a Jeep appeared to go out of control, striking cars before ploughing into the sisters as they walked on the footpath.
Two other girls, both aged 13, were also struck by the car and were treated for minor injuries.
Reports suggest that the driver of the Jeep, a local high school teacher, may have suffered a heart attack while at the wheel. She has been interviewed by police; however, no charges have been brought.
Some 500 residents of the Woodlawn area, including schools friends of the sisters from St Barnabas High School, attended a candlelit vigil at the scene of the crash on Saturday.
Locals in Fenagh said they were stunned that such a terrible tragedy could befall the Gill family.
Mr Gill was heavily involved in the GAA in Fenagh and played football for local club St Caillins, while Lindsay played for the girls' team.
Friends of Kalie posted messages on Twitter, describing her as a "beautiful angel".
"We will miss you forever in our hearts," wrote one friend.
Martin Kenny, Sinn Fein councillor from Aughavas, said: "Everyone is very shocked and saddened. I know they lived here for the past number of years and had just returned back to the States.
"Lots of people from the area are over there and they have relatives there, too. Everybody's hearts go out to the family," he added.
Local Fine Gael councillor Gordon Hughes said Mr Gill returned to Fenagh in 2006 and bought a pub.
"Damien had a few other businesses and it was just with the downturn that they made the decision to go back to the States," he explained.
He said the girls had spent the last seven years in Leitrim.
"They have a big extended family who all live in the locality and some of them are making arrangements to get out to America by this Tuesday."
By Breda Heffernan