Tuesday 16 October 2018

'He leaves behind two young daughters, they were his pride and joy' - Tributes paid to US police officer killed in Wexford crash

Stephen Alexander (49) (Photo: Bolington Police Dept)
Stephen Alexander (49) (Photo: Bolington Police Dept)
Pictured: The Alexander family, including Doug Sr, Lily, Doug Jr and Stephen
Doug and Lily Alexander
The roof of a BMW at the scene of the fatal crash between a rental car and a truck which saw four members of a family killed in Cushinstown Co Wexford. Pic Steve Humphreys
Gardai at the scene of the fatal crash between a rental car and a truck which saw four members of a family killed in Cushinstown Co Wexford. Pic Steve Humphreys
The scene of the crash just off the N25 between New Ross and Ballinaboola, Co Wexford. Photo: Steve Humphries
The scene of the crash just off the N25 between New Ross and Ballinaboola, Co Wexford. Photo: Steve Humphries
A garda near the scene of the crash just off the N25 between New Ross and Ballinaboola, Co Wexford. Photo: Patrick Browne

Tributes have been pouring in for four family members who lost their lives in an 'absolutely horrific' crash on Monday night.

Lily Alexander, her husband Doug and their two sons Doug Jr and Stephen were killed in the two-vehicle collision on the main New Ross to Wexford at around 6.30pm yesterday evening.

Doug and Lily Alexander
Doug and Lily Alexander

The four family members are from Illinois and had flown into Shannon Airport earlier yesterday for the funeral of a close relative in Co Wexford.

Lily and Doug, pictured above, were aged in their seventies and their two sons were aged in their forties.

One of their sons, Stephen 'Steve' Alexander (49) was an award-winning police officer.

He leaves behind two daughters, aged 11 and 10.

Lieutenant Anthony Columbus, who worked with Steve for 17 years, said he was an "unbelievable officer".

Speaking on RTÉ's Morning Ireland, Mr Columbus described him as an "exemplary officer who took pride in everything on a daily basis".

Pictured: The Alexander family, including Doug Sr, Lily, Doug Jr and Stephen
Pictured: The Alexander family, including Doug Sr, Lily, Doug Jr and Stephen

"He strove to make our department a better place, to make our community a better place. Besides just coming to work, he actually did programmes on his own. He did community outreach programmes for the youth in our community, teaching young girls how to do defensive tactics and self-confidence skills. He [was] also part of the Illinois Special Olympics."

Steve Alexander received the Life Saving Award in 2013 and was nominated as Police Officer of the Year in 2014 and 2015.

Mr Columbus said the police department "will never get over the loss" as he was "more than a fellow officer, he was a friend to all of us."

"He was an awesome father ... his children were his pride and joy."

The scene of the crash just off the N25 between New Ross and Ballinaboola, Co Wexford. Photo: Steve Humphries
The scene of the crash just off the N25 between New Ross and Ballinaboola, Co Wexford. Photo: Steve Humphries

His partner Susan Verden Schulze said in a post on Facebook: "I can never express the happiness Steve gave me. He showed me true love. I am so blessed that to be a part of his life. I love you Steve and I will love you forever and a day".

Meanwhile, Doug Jr was a dad of two young daughters, aged six and seven, and had played in a rock band for the past 20 years.

Kent Kaled, a close friend of Doug Alexander Jnr, told Independent.ie: "We're all devastated. His death has blind-sided us completely."

Doug was a member of Kent's rock band Network for the past 20 years.

"Doug played guitar and sang. He was an all round great guy and a wonderful dad to his two young daughters. Doug lived with his wife Marian, who is from Ireland, and their two girls," said Kent, who lives in the Chicago area.

"Doug's mom and dad were big fans of the band and came to a lot to see us perform. Doug's dad was very musical and had played guitar in an Irish showband," he said.

Friends and family also paid tribute to the much-loved family online.

A friend of Doug Jr wrote; "I’m devastated. Rest In Peace Doug Alexander. No words can express how much you meant to me in my life. You were my brother always picking me up at the lowest points in my life... Love you."

Another wrote; "Oh my, he was truly a beautiful soul so I’m sure his whole family was just as special. So sad."

While another added; "Doug was a beautiful person who always put a smile on my face, this is so sad."

Their local mayor in Bolingbrook, Illinois, Roger Claar told local media that the village are still trying to piece together the information about the family tragedy.

"This is out of left field for us," Claar said, speaking about Lily and Doug's son Stephen.

"I've heard nothing but good things about (Stephen). He was a great guy, a popular guy, competent. He was a well-liked guy. We've lost a fine officer." 

Gardaí are now investigating the crash, and closed a section of the N25 near Cushinstown.

This morning, the articulated truck and car could be seen at the side of the road in their final resting positions following the crash.

The cab of the truck turned sideways in the impact and jack-knifed, and was buried into the side of its own trailer.

The car that the family were traveling in could be seen just in front of the cab of the truck.

Its roof had been removed by emergency crews who arrived to treat the injured.

Initial indications are the crash happened on a bend in the road at the top of a hill.

The vehicles have since been removed from the scene.

Further down the road the spire of the Church of St Mary in Cushinstown can be seen.

It was to this church the family were due to travel at noon today to attend the funeral of local woman Winnie Keevey.

It is understood Lily Alexander was a sister of Winnie's, and that she had travelled from the Illinois area of America with her husband and two sons to attend the funeral.

The funeral of Winnie Keevey took place today.

Locals described the scene as "absolutely horrific" with debris scattered all over the roadside.

Crash

Gardaí, New Ross Fire Brigade and a fleet of ambulances raced to the scene of the crash just off the N25 between Cushinstown and Begern Cross on the New Ross to Ballinaboola road.

Paramedics desperately tried to stabilise the condition of two critically injured people. However, two others were pronounced dead immediately.

They are understood to have been trapped in the car when emergency services arrived.

The other two casualties died before they could be transferred to University Hospital Waterford.

The lorry driver and his passenger avoided serious injury, although the driver was treated at the scene for severe shock.

Driving conditions were described as reasonable at the time, although visibility was somewhat restricted by mist and drizzle.

Local parish priest Fr Sean Devereux said the whole community is "numbed".

"We're just very shocked and saddened. The whole community is numbed by this tragedy.

"The people who died were coming to attend a funeral here.

"It's terrible that someone in America now has to hear this news coming through from so far away."

Local Fine Gael Councillor Willie Fitzharris said it appeared both vehicles had been travelling in the same direction when the crash happened.

"Obviously it's terrible and my heart really goes out to the family of the victims. It seemed the two vehicles involved were travelling in the same direction as each other. The whole town is just shocked and horrified.

"I was at a meeting in New Ross this evening and saw five ambulances arrive at the scene," he added.

"It's very difficult to understand how this could have happened but there has been a few minor accidents in the vicinity in recent times. Coming up to Christmas just adds to this tragedy."

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