Tributes paid after pair killed in blaze
TRIBUTES have been paid to a mother of four and a gifted mechanic who died together in a house blaze.
Nuala Sweeney (65) and Ben Whiteman (38) perished in the blaze, which broke out in the flat where they were sleeping on Station Road in Gort, Co Galway, in the early hours of yesterday morning.
Ms Sweeney, who is originally from Dublin, had been living in the town for more than a decade. She is the mother of four grown children. Mr Whiteman, from Stafford in England, had also lived in the town for several years.
Friends of the two told of their sorrow at the deaths yesterday. Ms Sweeney was remembered by close friends as a well educated, quiet lady who loved nature.
"She was a fantastic person and she would try and help you if she could. She was a fantastic neighbour; it's dreadful what has happened," said neighbour Deirdre Malborough.
"She was so into nature, she loved to feed the pigeons and the cats," she added.
Michael Slattery, who attended college in Trinity at the same time as Ms Sweeney, also paid tribute to her.
"She was a lovely woman, I knew her for more than 45 years. She loved to grow herbs. She really had a varied life, she ran a B&B for years in Clare before she started teaching English as a foreign language. She was just a lovely person," he said.
Mr Whiteman was recalled by friends as a gifted mechanic. Gort resident Des Kavanagh described Mr Whiteman as an "absolute gentleman".
"He was an absolute genius of a man with mechanics, he was really smart," he said.
The blaze is understood to have broken out in the bedroom where Ms Sweeney was sleeping.
The remains of Mr Whiteman were discovered in the living room of the flat.
The remains of both victims were removed to University Hospital Galway where post-mortems were carried out.
Four fire brigade tenders from Loughrea and Gort battled the blaze for more than two hours.
A garda technical examination was carried out at the scene but the fire is not being treated as suspicious.