Thursday 30 July 2015

St Jude's storm: Irish dad who died as tree fell was 'in wrong place at wrong time'

Eight dead across Europe as wind and rain take their toll

Laurence Dodds

Published 28/10/2013 | 17:10

Donal Drohan, originally from Waterford, died after a tree fell on his car in Watford.
Donal Drohan, originally from Waterford, died after a tree fell on his car in Watford.
Bethany Freeman (17) died after a huge tree toppled on to a caravan she was sleeping in as hurricane-force winds buffeted Britain

AN Irish dad was in “the wrong place at the wrong time” when he was killed by a falling tree as storms lashed Britain and Europe today.

The family of Donal Drohan (51), who was originally from Waterford but living in London, have paid tribute this  evening to "a loving husband and father of three".

Mr Drohan, from Harrow, north west London, died after his car was struck at the eastern end of the bridge over the River Colne on Lower High Street in Watford shortly before 7am.

He was among eight people to die as a result of the heavy winds and rain that lashed southern England and Europe. The other dead were a 17-year-old girl crushed in a mobile home by a tree and two people who died in a gas explosion triggered by a falling tree.

Two people were also killed by a tree in Germany while there was one death in the Netherlands and one in France.

A 14-year-old boy who was swept out to sea off the Sussex coast is feared dead after the coast guard called off the search.

People watch as waves crash against the harbour wall at Porthcawl in south Wales October 28, 2013. Britain's strongest storm in a decade battered southern regions on Monday, forcing hundreds of flight cancellations, cutting power lines and disrupting the travel plans of millions of commuters. Winds of up to 99 miles per hour (160 km per hour) lashed southern England and Wales in the early hours of Monday, shutting down rail services in some areas during rush hour. REUTERS/Rebecca Naden (BRITAIN - Tags: ENVIRONMENT SOCIETY DISASTER)
People watch as waves crash against the harbour wall at Porthcawl in south Wales October 28, 2013. Britain's strongest storm in a decade battered southern regions on Monday, forcing hundreds of flight cancellations, cutting power lines and disrupting the travel plans of millions of commuters. Winds of up to 99 miles per hour (160 km per hour) lashed southern England and Wales in the early hours of Monday, shutting down rail services in some areas during rush hour. REUTERS/Rebecca Naden (BRITAIN - Tags: ENVIRONMENT SOCIETY DISASTER)
A general view of the scene in Hever, Kent, where a 17-year-old girl was killed when a tree blew on to the caravan where she was sleeping. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Monday October 28, 2013. See PA story WEATHER Storm. Photo credit should read: Philip Toscano/PA Wire
People take photographs after a crane collapsed on the roof of the Cabinet Office, central London, as more than 40,000 homes are without power and commuters are facing severe travel disruption after the worst storm in years lashed the UK. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Monday October 28, 2013. See PA story WEATHER Storm. Photo credit should read: Anthony Devlin/PA Wire
Workmen view the damage after a crane collapsed on the roof of the Cabinet Office, central London, as more than 40,000 homes are without power and commuters are facing severe travel disruption after the worst storm in years lashed the UK. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Monday October 28, 2013. See PA story WEATHER Storm. Photo credit should read: Anthony Devlin/PA Wire
A woman is helped over a fallen tree lying across the road in Shepherd's Hill, north London due to the storm affecting parts of the UK. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Monday October 28, 2013. See PA story WEATHER Storm. Photo credit should read: Yui Mok/PA Wire
A cyclist climbs over a fallen tree lying across the road in Shepherd's Hill, north London due to the storm affecting parts of the UK. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Monday October 28, 2013. See PA story WEATHER Storm. Photo credit should read: Yui Mok/PA Wire
A fallen tree lying across the road in Shepherd's Hill, north London due to the storm affecting parts of the UK. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Monday October 28, 2013. See PA story WEATHER Storm. Photo credit should read: Yui Mok/PA Wire
Passers-by climb over a fallen tree lying across the road in Shepherd's Hill, north London due to the storm affecting parts of the UK. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Monday October 28, 2013. See PA story WEATHER Storm. Photo credit should read: Yui Mok/PA Wire
DOVER, UNITED KINGDOM - OCTOBER 28: Large waves, produced by storm force winds, break on the shore on October 28, 2013 in Dover, England. Approximately 220,000 homes are without power and two deaths have been recorded after much of southern England has been affected by a severe storm. Transport links on road, rail, air and sea have been severely disrupted by hurricane-force winds that have almost reached 100 mph in places. (Photo by Oli Scarff/Getty Images)
DOVER, UNITED KINGDOM - OCTOBER 28: Large waves, produced by storm force winds, break on the shore on October 28, 2013 in Dover, England. Approximately 220,000 homes are without power and two deaths have been recorded after much of southern England has been affected by a severe storm. Transport links on road, rail, air and sea have been severely disrupted by hurricane-force winds that have almost reached 100 mph in places.. (Photo by Oli Scarff/Getty Images)
DOVER, UNITED KINGDOM - OCTOBER 28: Ferries wait beyond the harbour wall as large waves, produced by storm force winds, break on the shore on October 28, 2013 in Dover, England. Approximately 220,000 homes are without power and two deaths have been recorded after much of southern England has been affected by a severe storm. Transport links on road, rail, air and sea have been severely disrupted by hurricane-force winds that have almost reached 100 mph in places.. (Photo by Oli Scarff/Getty Images)
PORTHLEVEN, UNITED KINGDOM - OCTOBER 28: Large waves, produced by storm force winds break along the coast at Porthleven on October 28, 2013 in Cornwall, England. Approximately 220,000 homes are without power and two deaths have been recorded after much of southern England has been affected by a severe storm. Transport links on road, rail, air and sea have been severely disrupted by hurricane-force winds that have almost reached 100 mph in places. (Photo by Matt Cardy/Getty Images)
PORTHLEVEN, UNITED KINGDOM - OCTOBER 28: Large waves, produced by storm force winds, break along the coast at Porthleven on October 28, 2013 in Cornwall, England. Approximately 220,000 homes are without power and two deaths have been recorded after much of southern England has been affected by a severe storm. Transport links on road, rail, air and sea have been severely disrupted by hurricane-force winds that have almost reached 100 mph in places. (Photo by Matt Cardy/Getty Images)
PORTHLEVEN, UNITED KINGDOM - OCTOBER 28: A member of the public watches large waves, produced by storm force winds break along the coast at Porthleven on October 28, 2013 in Cornwall, England. Approximately 220,000 homes are without power and two deaths have been recorded after much of southern England has been affected by a severe storm. Transport links on road, rail, air and sea have been severely disrupted by hurricane-force winds that have almost reached 100 mph in places. (Photo by Matt Cardy/Getty Images)
PORTHLEVEN, UNITED KINGDOM - OCTOBER 28: Large waves, produced by storm force winds, break along the coast at Porthleven on October 28, 2013 in Cornwall, England. Approximately 220,000 homes are without power and two deaths have been recorded after much of southern England has been affected by a severe storm. Transport links on road, rail, air and sea have been severely disrupted by hurricane-force winds that have almost reached 100 mph in places. (Photo by Matt Cardy/Getty Images)
PORTHLEVEN, UNITED KINGDOM - OCTOBER 28: A member of the public watches large waves, produced by storm force winds break along the coast at Porthleven on October 28, 2013 in Cornwall, England. Approximately 220,000 homes are without power and two deaths have been recorded after much of southern England has been affected by a severe storm. Transport links on road, rail, air and sea have been severely disrupted by hurricane-force winds that have almost reached 100 mph in places. (Photo by Matt Cardy/Getty Images)
PORTHLEVEN, UNITED KINGDOM - OCTOBER 28: Large waves, produced by storm force winds break along the coast at Porthleven on October 28, 2013 in Cornwall, England. Approximately 220,000 homes are without power and two deaths have been recorded after much of southern England has been affected by a severe storm. Transport links on road, rail, air and sea have been severely disrupted by hurricane-force winds that have almost reached 100 mph in places. (Photo by Matt Cardy/Getty Images)
DOVER, UNITED KINGDOM - OCTOBER 28: Large waves, produced by storm force winds, break against the harbour wall on October 28, 2013 in Dover, England. Approximately 220,000 homes are without power and two deaths have been recorded after much of southern England has been affected by a severe storm. Transport links on road, rail, air and sea have been severely disrupted by hurricane-force winds that have almost reached 100 mph in places.. (Photo by Oli Scarff/Getty Images)
DOVER, UNITED KINGDOM - OCTOBER 28: Large waves, produced by storm force winds, break on the shore on October 28, 2013 in Dover, England. Approximately 220,000 homes are without power and two deaths have been recorded after much of southern England has been affected by a severe storm. Transport links on road, rail, air and sea have been severely disrupted by hurricane-force winds that have almost reached 100 mph in places.. (Photo by Oli Scarff/Getty Images)
DOVER, UNITED KINGDOM - OCTOBER 28: Members of the public watch as large waves, produced by storm force winds, break against the harbour wall on October 28, 2013 in Dover, England. Approximately 220,000 homes are without power and two deaths have been recorded after much of southern England has been affected by a severe storm. Transport links on road, rail, air and sea have been severely disrupted by hurricane-force winds that have almost reached 100 mph in places.. (Photo by Oli Scarff/Getty Images)
DOVER, UNITED KINGDOM - OCTOBER 28: Members of the public watch as large waves, produced by storm force winds, break against the harbour wall on October 28, 2013 in Dover, England. Approximately 220,000 homes are without power and two deaths have been recorded after much of southern England has been affected by a severe storm. Transport links on road, rail, air and sea have been severely disrupted by hurricane-force winds that have almost reached 100 mph in places.. (Photo by Oli Scarff/Getty Images)
DOVER, UNITED KINGDOM - OCTOBER 28: Members of the public watch as large waves, produced by storm force winds, break against the harbour wall on October 28, 2013 in Dover, England. Approximately 220,000 homes are without power and two deaths have been recorded after much of southern England has been affected by a severe storm. Transport links on road, rail, air and sea have been severely disrupted by hurricane-force winds that have almost reached 100 mph in places.. (Photo by Oli Scarff/Getty Images)
DOVER, UNITED KINGDOM - OCTOBER 28: Members of the public watch as large waves, produced by storm force winds, break against the harbour wall on October 28, 2013 in Dover, England. Approximately 220,000 homes are without power and two deaths have been recorded after much of southern England has been affected by a severe storm. Transport links on road, rail, air and sea have been severely disrupted by hurricane-force winds that have almost reached 100 mph in places.. (Photo by Oli Scarff/Getty Images)
DOVER, UNITED KINGDOM - OCTOBER 28: Members of the public watch as large waves, produced by storm force winds, break against the harbour wall on October 28, 2013 in Dover, England. Approximately 220,000 homes are without power and two deaths have been recorded after much of southern England has been affected by a severe storm. Transport links on road, rail, air and sea have been severely disrupted by hurricane-force winds that have almost reached 100 mph in places.. (Photo by Oli Scarff/Getty Images)
DOVER, UNITED KINGDOM - OCTOBER 28: A child is blown over as large waves, produced by storm force winds, break against the harbour wall on October 28, 2013 in Dover, England. Approximately 220,000 homes are without power and two deaths have been recorded after much of southern England has been affected by a severe storm. Transport links on road, rail, air and sea have been severely disrupted by hurricane-force winds that have almost reached 100 mph in places.. (Photo by Oli Scarff/Getty Images)
DOVER, UNITED KINGDOM - OCTOBER 28: A child is blown over as large waves, produced by storm force winds, break against the harbour wall on October 28, 2013 in Dover, England. Approximately 220,000 homes are without power and two deaths have been recorded after much of southern England has been affected by a severe storm. Transport links on road, rail, air and sea have been severely disrupted by hurricane-force winds that have almost reached 100 mph in places.. (Photo by Oli Scarff/Getty Images)
TROON, UNITED KINGDOM - OCTOBER 28: Members of the public walk along the Troon South beach on October 28, 2013 in Troon, Scotland. Scotland is set to miss the effects of the storm which is hitting the south of Britain, with gusts of 80mph winds causing travel disruption. (Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)
DOVER, UNITED KINGDOM - OCTOBER 28: Large waves, produced by storm force winds, break against the harbour wall on October 28, 2013 in Dover, England. Approximately 220,000 homes are without power and two deaths have been recorded after much of southern England has been affected by a severe storm. Transport links on road, rail, air and sea have been severely disrupted by hurricane-force winds that have almost reached 100 mph in places. (Photo by Oli Scarff/Getty Images)
DOVER, UNITED KINGDOM - OCTOBER 28: Members of the public watch as large waves, produced by storm force winds, break against the harbour wall on October 28, 2013 in Dover, England. Approximately 220,000 homes are without power and two deaths have been recorded after much of southern England has been affected by a severe storm. Transport links on road, rail, air and sea have been severely disrupted by hurricane-force winds that have almost reached 100 mph in places. (Photo by Oli Scarff/Getty Images)
DOVER, UNITED KINGDOM - OCTOBER 28: Members of the public watch as large waves, produced by storm force winds, break against the harbour wall on October 28, 2013 in Dover, England. Approximately 220,000 homes are without power and two deaths have been recorded after much of southern England has been affected by a severe storm. Transport links on road, rail, air and sea have been severely disrupted by hurricane-force winds that have almost reached 100 mph in places. (Photo by Oli Scarff/Getty Images)
DOVER, UNITED KINGDOM - OCTOBER 28: Large waves produced by storm force winds break against the harbour wall on October 28, 2013 in Dover, England. Approximately 220,000 homes are without power and two deaths have been recorded after much of southern England has been affected by a severe storm. Transport links on road, rail, air and sea have been severely disrupted by hurricane-force winds that have almost reached 100 mph in places. (Photo by Oli Scarff/Getty Images)
DOVER, UNITED KINGDOM - OCTOBER 28: Large waves produced by storm force winds break against the harbour wall on October 28, 2013 in Dover, England. Approximately 220,000 homes are without power and two deaths have been recorded after much of southern England has been affected by a severe storm. Transport links on road, rail, air and sea have been severely disrupted by hurricane-force winds that have almost reached 100 mph in places. (Photo by Oli Scarff/Getty Images)
People watch as waves crash against the harbour wall at Porthcawl in south Wales October 28, 2013. Britain's strongest storm in a decade battered southern regions on Monday, forcing hundreds of flight cancellations, cutting power lines and disrupting the travel plans of millions of commuters. Winds of up to 99 miles per hour (160 km per hour) lashed southern England and Wales in the early hours of Monday, shutting down rail services in some areas during rush hour. REUTERS/Rebecca Naden (BRITAIN - Tags: ENVIRONMENT SOCIETY DISASTER)
A collapsed tree lies across a road in Hounslow, west London October 28, 2013. Britain's strongest storm in a decade battered southern regions on Monday, forcing hundreds of flight cancellations, cutting power lines and disrupting the travel plans of millions of commuters. Winds of up to 99 miles per hour (160 km per hour) lashed southern England and Wales in the early hours of Monday, shutting down rail services in some areas during rush hour. REUTERS/Toby Melville (BRITAIN - Tags: DISASTER ENVIRONMENT SOCIETY)
Emergency services work at the scene of a fallen tree at Bath Road in Hounslow, west London October 28, 2013. Britain's strongest storm in a decade battered southern regions on Monday, forcing hundreds of flight cancellations, cutting power lines and disrupting the travel plans of millions of commuters. Winds of up to 99 miles per hour (160 km per hour) lashed southern England and Wales in the early hours of Monday, shutting down rail services in some areas during rush hour. REUTERS/Toby Melville (BRITAIN - Tags: DISASTER ENVIRONMENT SOCIETY)
Emergency services work at the scene of a fallen tree at Bath Road in Hounslow, west London October 28, 2013. Britain's strongest storm in a decade battered southern regions on Monday, forcing hundreds of flight cancellations, cutting power lines and disrupting the travel plans of millions of commuters. Winds of up to 99 miles per hour (160 km per hour) lashed southern England and Wales in the early hours of Monday, shutting down rail services in some areas during rush hour. REUTERS/Toby Melville (BRITAIN - Tags: DISASTER ENVIRONMENT SOCIETY TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY)
Emergency services work at the scene of a fallen tree at Bath Road in Hounslow, west London October 28, 2013. Britain's strongest storm in a decade battered southern regions on Monday, forcing hundreds of flight cancellations, cutting power lines and disrupting the travel plans of millions of commuters. Winds of up to 99 miles per hour (160 km per hour) lashed southern England and Wales in the early hours of Monday, shutting down rail services in some areas during rush hour. REUTERS/Toby Melville (BRITAIN - Tags: DISASTER ENVIRONMENT SOCIETY)
Emergency services work at the scene of a fallen tree at Bath road in Hounslow, west London October 28, 2013. Britain's strongest storm in a decade battered southern regions on Monday, forcing hundreds of flight cancellations, cutting power lines and disrupting the travel plans of millions of commuters. Winds of up to 99 miles per hour (160 km per hour) lashed southern England and Wales in the early hours of Monday, shutting down rail services in some areas during rush hour. REUTERS/Toby Melville (BRITAIN - Tags: DISASTER ENVIRONMENT SOCIETY)
People wait at a bus stop by a damaged tree in Brentford, west London October 28, 2013. Britain's strongest storm in a decade battered southern regions on Monday, forcing hundreds of flight cancellations, cutting power lines and disrupting the travel plans of millions of commuters. Winds of up to 99 miles per hour (160 km per hour) lashed southern England and Wales in the early hours of Monday, shutting down rail services in some areas during rush hour. REUTERS/Toby Melville (BRITAIN - Tags: DISASTER ENVIRONMENT SOCIETY)
Workers clear a fallen tree from a street in south London October 28, 2013. Strong storm winds and rain battered southern parts of England and Wales early on Monday, forcing flight cancellations, disrupting trains and closing roads and major bridges. Local media dubbed the storm "St. Jude", after the patron saint of lost causes who is traditionally celebrated on October 28. REUTERS/Andrew Winning (BRITAIN - Tags: ENVIRONMENT DISASTER SOCIETY)
Residents look at a fallen tree in a street in south London October 28, 2013. Strong storm winds and rain battered southern parts of England and Wales early on Monday, forcing flight cancellations, disrupting trains and closing roads and major bridges. Local media dubbed the storm "St. Jude", after the patron saint of lost causes who is traditionally celebrated on October 28. REUTERS/Andrew Winning (BRITAIN - Tags: ENVIRONMENT DISASTER SOCIETY)
The roof of a pedestrian bridge which collapsed during strong winds is seen outside London Bridge Station in London October 28, 2013. Strong storm winds and rain battered southern parts of England and Wales early on Monday, forcing flight cancellations, disrupting trains and closing roads and major bridges. Local media dubbed the storm "St. Jude", after the patron saint of lost causes who is traditionally celebrated on October 28. REUTERS/Dylan Martinez (BRITAIN - Tags: SOCIETY ENVIRONMENT DISASTER)

The Met Office has now lifted its amber warning as the heart of the storm blew away from Norfolk and over the North Sea to continental Europe.

More than 450,000 homes suffered power cuts across England have had energy restored, but 166,000 are disconnected.

Mr Drohan’s family released a statement about tragedy, saying: "He was the best husband and father anyone could wish for. You couldn't find anyone who had a bad word to say about him.

"He was very supportive to everybody who knew him and couldn't say no to helping out with anything.

"He was an active member of the community who was involved with local groups and had recently helped Team Harrow of The Challenge Network helping to shape the lives of hundreds of young people within the local community."

A police officer at the scene of the incident said that a millisecond's difference in Mr Drohan's journey would have made for "a different story".

The unnamed officer said: "This is a major artery into Watford and we were lucky it was school half-term. If it wasn't, we'd have had a lot more traffic coming through here."

The jagged stump of the tree, about three feet across and broken 12 feet up, could be seen in the greenery at the side of the road.

Investigators examined the site to rule out foul play before the main part of the tree trunk was lifted off the car with a mobile crane and loaded on to a container truck. The rest of the tree was fed into a shredder lorry.

Mr Drohan was a long-serving local authority employee and had recently taken up golf.

Susan Hall, leader of Harrow Council, said: "This is an absolute tragedy and everyone is devastated. Donal was one of our public realm managers and had worked for us for nearly 25 years.

"He was always cheerful, and passionate about his job keeping our streets clean. His council colleagues are finding this very hard to deal with. Our thoughts are with Donal's family both here and in Ireland."

Richard Searle, director of Quality Lounge Suites in Watford, said the incident was "very upsetting" and he was "very sorry" for the man's family.

He said: "It happened about a minute before I got here. I was driving to work - normally I try to get in early - and as I got here, the traffic had slowed down. I couldn't go straight in, so I pulled on the drive, parked my car up, and then I walked down the road assuming there'd been an accident.

"I noticed as I walked down there that a tree had fallen on top of a red Peugeot. I didn't like the look of what I saw and it was too late for me to do anything. One minute earlier and it could have been me. I will say the police and ambulance were very quick to arrive."

Roger Rogero, 54, a sales consultant at HSS Hire, also arrived at work just after the accident happened at the junction near a Wickes store and a Mercedes showroom.

He said: "There was a police car just outside us, officers stationed by the telephone box, and loads of police and police cars in Wickes, opposite the Mercedes dealer. I could see four or five police cars, ambulances, and fire engines. Beyond that it was just a mess, chaos."

The car had been travelling south-eastwards - on the opposite side of the road to the tree that fell - and was towed away just before 11am, he added.

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