independent

Friday 18 April 2014

Wife of wall-collapse victim was by his side as life faded

View of the interior wall that collapsed

THE wife of one of the victims of the Longford garden centre tragedy was by his side while onlookers and emergency services desperately tried to save his life.

Paddy Gaffney, who was in his mid-60s and from Tarmonbarry in Co Roscommon, was trapped under rubble after a nine-metre-tall wall collapsed at the Connacht Gold DIY and Garden Centre in Longford town on Tuesday.

His wife Patsy, who had been waiting for him in the car park, rushed inside and stayed by his side as emergency services took him to hospital.

He died a number of hours later from his injuries.

Investigations are continuing into the tragedy, which claimed the lives of two people and resulted in four others being hospitalised.

The second victim was father-of-three Sean Mulleady (47), from Drumlish in Longford, who died from his injuries at the Midlands Regional Hospital in Mullingar.

The Health and Safety Authority (HSA) is examining how the concrete-block internal wall collapsed within seconds just after 2pm on Tuesday.

The garden centre was built in 2011, and opened in March last year. It replaced a building gutted by fire in 2008.

It is understood the HSA may call in outside experts to help in its investigation, which will include examining the construction methods used to build the wall, which was in the centre of the store.

Other avenues being explored include the possibility it was hit by a forklift, weakening it.

"Inspectors are still at the scene and an investigation is under way," an HSA spokesman said. "No conclusion will be drawn at this early stage. The store will remain closed for the foreseeable future. It (the wall) may be looked at by external engineering or construction experts."

A spokesman for Connacht Gold said three staff members were injured, but two had been released from hospital. The store employs seven people.

Heartbreak

"We're trying to look after the family and relatives of the victims," he said. "We're working in every way with the HSA and other authorities in attempting to establish the cause of this accident."

Members of Mr Gaffney's family told of their heartbreak yesterday as they planned the funeral for the much-loved father of two and grandfather.

"We are just heartbroken. We're just waiting to get granddad back so we can arrange his funeral. He was absolutely loved by everyone," his daughter-in-law Bernadette said.

One witness, Elizabeth Fallon, said she had been speaking with him just moments before the wall collapsed.

"I knew Paddy very well, we had been standing chatting only seconds before it happened," she said. "Afterwards, my son Bernard pulled the blocks off Paddy's legs. He was in a sitting position and he told me to get his wife in the car."

One staff member, Padraig Galvin (28), from Kilashee, underwent surgery yesterday evening to insert metal plates in his leg. He was knocked unconscious and trapped under the rubble after it fell on top of him.

"He was working on the register with his back to the wall when it fell on top of him. He's cut all over his head and his leg is badly injured," his father-in-law John O'Leary said.

The three other injured are expected to make full recoveries.

The Gaffney and Mulleady families are now planning the funeral Masses, which are expected to take place on Friday.

Mr Mulleady's cousin Martin said the family wanted answers as to how the accident could have occurred.

"We're just waiting to get his body home. His family are just devastated and they are asking how this could have happened."

Irish Independent

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