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Irishmen die in scaffold horror

THIRTY-FIVE Boston firemen spent more than an hour digging out the bodies of two young Irishmen who fell to their deaths when scaffolding they were working on collapsed ``like a deck of cards''.

The two Gaelic football-loving friends, both in their twenties, had only met two weeks earlier when they arrived in Boston in search of work for the summer.

The horrific accident which left them trapped under 15 feet of bricks, plywood, and metal happened while they were working about 60 feet above the ground next to an 11-storey block of condominiums in Quincy, Massachusetts.

Shane McGettigan (21), from Drumshanbo, Co Leitrim, the son of singer songwriter and former Eurovision winner Charlie McGettigan, died before reaching hospital while his friend Ronan Stewart, an Irish Army private (24) of Dublin Road, Dundalk, died at the scene.

Mr McGettigan, who had been studying communications in Dublin before travelling to the US, had also been a member of the Leitrim senior football team beaten by Galway in this year's Connacht championship. He had travelled to the States about two weeks ago to work and to play Gaelic football for a Boston club. He was due to return home at the end of September, a week after his 22nd birthday.

Private Stewart had been a member of the Defence Forces but had applied to leave and was on pre discharge leave at the time of Tuesday's accident. His discharge would have been due to come into effect from yesterday.

He had been in the US for the past three weeks and had planned to stay if regular work was available.

He had previously played for the Army's all Ireland soccer team and GAA at local level.

According to the Quincy Deputy fire chief Paul O'Connell, it took 35 firefighters more than an hour to dig the two victims from the wreckage.

Quincy fire Chief Thomas Gorman said the scaffolding had fallen down ``like a deck of cards''. He added: ``They really didn't have a chance.''

Private Stewart's younger sister Niamh (23), who flew home from London after learning of her brother's death, said the family had been devastated by the tragedy. ``I dont think it has hit us yet,'' she added.

Another sister, Clodagh (29), had travelled to Boston last Saturday to see her brother and had had to formally identify his body. She was too traumatised by what happened to telephone home and a close family friend rang his family with the news.

Private Stewart, one of a family of five children, had been based at Cathal Brugha barracks in Dublin but came home every weekend, said Niamh.

He had grown up in Dundalk where his father Michael is vice principal of O Fiaich College, a mixed secondary school.

Mr McGettigan's parents Charlie and Gorretti last saw him on the evening of the drawn Connacht final in Tuam, Co Galway when he left for Dublin with a friend after the match to catch his flight to Boston.

He was a Leitrim senior club football championship medal winner with Drumshanbo based Allen Gaels for the last two consecutive years and only made his mind up to travel to Boston after the club was surprisingly knocked out of this year's championship at first round stage.

His father and mother and sisters Tara (19) and Ciara (17) are expected to fly to Boston today to accompany his remains home to Ireland.