Thursday 22 August 2019

'When I see the coffin, that'll be the sucker punch' - Heartbroken family of Irishman (33) who died in Australia

Anthony Skinner O Sullivan
Anthony Skinner O Sullivan

Mary McDonnell

A community is reeling after a 33-year-old Irish man died in his sleep in Sydney, Australia last Sunday.

Anthony O’Sullivan, a construction worker and DJ, originally from Killarney, was found unconscious in his room by a flatmate on Saturday November 4.

The much-loved eldest son of seven, described as someone who "really loved life", was hospitalised in a coma for 24 hours before his life support was switched off the next day around 1pm Irish time.

He passed away with two of his six brothers by his bedside. Killian (29) and Patrick (30) now live in Darwin. They Skyped home from the hospital so the family could say goodbye.

It remains unclear what caused the man’s unexplained death as relatives await autopsy results.

His heartbroken father, Paddy O’Sullivan (62) told "The reality of it hasn’t hit me yet. When I go to Dublin Airport on Wednesday and I see the coffin, that’s the sucker punch waiting to come.

"They (his brothers Killian and Patrick) were there when the life support was turned off. They just made it. They were able video call us to say goodbye. He wasn’t alone when he died.

"My last conversation with Anthony was making plans to go to Sydney next February. The lads (Killian and Patrick) were going to come down from Darwin.

"We were going to hire a camper and go up the Ocean Road. We’re all a bit shell shocked."

Mr O’Sullivan said his son will be buried with his mother Sheila who lost her fight against breast cancer in 2004 when she was just 47.

In Australia, a few dozen friends walked from Coogee Beach to Bondi and released helium balloons yesterday in memory of their friend.

They’ve also launched a Go Fund Me page to raise money to cover repatriation and burial costs. The fund has raised almost €60,000 so far – double its original target.

"I just have no words to describe the support," said Paddy O’Sullivan. "The lads in Australia have just been incredibly helpful to my two other sons (in Australia).

"That was Anthony’s local haunt (where friends held a memorial). I can’t get my head around it. There’s a hotel bar on the beach there, he used to go there very often. There was 30 or 40 of them (there yesterday). They told stories about him. He packed a lot into 33 years. He really loved life.

"Friends are more important to him than anything. He made a lot of friends though that."

Mr O'Sullivan described his late son as an animal lover with a passion for wildlife.

He said: "He was a man who loved animals and birds. When he was here at home he used to breed birds. He had about 50 budgies. He loved animals. He had a great way with them. He worked in Coolwood Widlife Park just outside Killarney (for four years as a teenager) - that was his passion."

Mr O’Sullivan played underage football with Kilcummin GAA as a full-forward for years.

The club’s Vice Chair, Pat O’Connor said: “He was very popular with all his team and mentors. He remained active with the club while there (in Australia). He raised some money for the club from there recently. He was the kind of guy who didn’t forget about home when he left.”

Fr. Eamonn Mulvihill of Our Lady of Lourdes Church in Kilcummin said Mr O’Sullivan was too young to go.

"He was very young. That’s something we wouldn’t be used to," he said. "It’s tough but the way the Irish came together in this is a revelation. It’s touching.

(As the eldest of seven) he was the first one into the world and now the first one out. 

He added: "The Irish have been very good to each other in Australia. It’s one of those miracles, they were very supportive.

"They came together, they raised money, they looked after each other. It’s great to see. I praise them for everything they’ve done.

"The young Irish in Australia are a credit to their families back home. Raising money for the family was a show of how good they are. They also physically came together as well. It was outstanding.”


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