Saturday 18 November 2017

Kate (2) and baby sister Grace killed in Sunday walk horror

Gardai at the scene after the crash on the N17 near Tuam
The scene of the accident on the N17 near Tuam
The Gilmore home

Caroline Crawford, Grainne Cunningham and Barry Duggan

GARDAI are investigating whether a driver had a seizure before his car killed two little sisters on an afternoon stroll with their father.

Two-year-old Kate and her three-month-old baby sister Grace, the only children of John Gilmore and his wife Michelle, died when a Toyota Avensis spun out of control on the N17 Dublin to Tuam road, about a mile from the Galway town at 1.45pm.

Mr Gilmore was pushing the buggy along the hard shoulder of the straight stretch of road in the sunshine when the accident happened, while his wife was busy at the family home in the nearby Meadows estate on the Milltown Road, Tuam.

But it is understood that gardai were responding to a report that the Toyota had already clipped another vehicle at a nearby junction when they came upon the Gilmores.

Officers are considering the possibility that the driver suffered a seizure, which resulted in him hitting another car before veering off the road and into the family.

Two ambulances rushed to the scene and transported Mr Gilmore, the children and the driver to University Hospital Galway about 30km away.

Frantic efforts were made to save Kate and Grace but they were pronounced dead shortly after arrival. The injuries suffered by Mr Gilmore and the male driver, who was the sole occupant of the car, are not believed to be life-threatening.

A section of the N17 was closed off near the turnoff for Dunmore while a forensics team carried out an examination of the accident scene.

Gardai in Tuam have appealed for any witnesses to the accident to come forward to help them piece together what happened.

Mr Gilmore is a construction engineer and works in the private sector while his wife Michelle had an administrative role with the HSE but is believed to be on maternity leave at present. Michelle's maiden name is Newell and she is originally from the Belclare area while her husband is originally from Cortoon, also near Tuam.

A statement on behalf of the family asked for "time and privacy to grieve the loss of their two beautiful daughters".

The two sisters were laid out side by side in the hospital and their parents spent the afternoon with them, the girls' grand-uncle Mickey Gilmore said.

Mickey and his wife Carmel had spent the last week with the children in Lanzarote at a family wedding. The Gilmore family only returned home to Tuam last Thursday.

Mark Gilmore, a brother of the girls' father John, married Wendy Pugh in Tiaz last Monday.

"The day we flew out we got delayed at Knock for hours. Kate kept us entertained at the airport all day while we were waiting for the flight," Mr Gilmore said.

"They were down at the beach every day with their parents. They had the bucket and spade and were playing away in the sand making sandcastles all the time.

"Kate had a lovely head of curly, ginger hair. She is a lovely thin girl and stood out with the type of hair that she had," Mickey Gilmore said.

Carmel described Kate as "a real Irish colleen".

"The day of the wedding she was dancing all over the place and out there with her cousins. She had a lovely white dress on and a cardigan. John was best man at the wedding," she said.

Ruined

"We were all on the same flight home. Mark and his wife are spending another week over there on the honeymoon but that is all ruined now. They were told this afternoon," she added.

On Saturday night, John Gilmore had worked at the gate of his local GAA club, Cortoon Shamrocks, where a league game was taking place.

"John went walking out with the two girls. He is a devoted father. He works in Derry during the week and spends all his time at weekends with the girls," Mickey said.

"It is absolutely desperate -- they were their only children," Carmel added.

News of the terrible accident travelled rapidly around the town, with locals shocked and deeply saddened by the tragedy.

Tuam councillor Tom McHugh, who owns the Ardri House Hotel located 150 metres from the scene of the accident, said the community was devastated on behalf of the Gilmore family who are well known and well liked in the area.

"A terrible dark cloud is hanging over the community of the family and the community of the children's grandparents," he said.

"Everyone here in Tuam is in a state of shock. Nobody seems to know what happened but it is an awful tragedy.

"My sympathy goes out to the girls' parents and grandparents, who I know. I wish their father a speedy recovery. It is too traumatic and horrendous to even imagine what they are going through," he said.

Fianna Fail councillor Michael Connolly said the incident was an "absolute tragedy".

"It's a tragedy for the family and a tragedy for the whole community in the Tuam area," he said.

"Words cannot describe the loss this family has suffered. A father brings his family out for a walk on a Sunday and this happens -- could anything be worse than that?"

Gardai appealed for witnesses to the incident to contact Tuam garda station on 093-70840 or the garda confidential telephone line 1800 666 111.

The stretch of road where the accident occurred is a popular area for walkers and joggers but it has also been the scene of four collisions in recent years, one fatal.

In 2007, a goods vehicle was involved in a head-on collision, which killed one person and left four others with injuries. In 2008, a collision involving a car left four people in hospital, while there were two minor collisions in 2006 and 2007.

Irish Independent

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