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'Only thing bigger than his smile was his heart' - Irish father dies in New Jersey fire

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Michael Jennings was well known in Mayo soccer circles

Michael Jennings was well known in Mayo soccer circles

Michael Jennings was well known in Mayo soccer circles

An Irish father of two died and his wife is undergoing treatment in hospital after a fire at their apartment building in the US.

Michael Jennings (52), who was originally from Co Mayo, lost his life as a result of the fire at Ocean Grove in New Jersey on Thursday, while his wife Catherine is reported to be in a stable condition in hospital.

He had been working at Johnny Mac's House of Spirits which posted an emotional tribute to him on social media, saying: "With heavy hearts, we sadly share with you the passing of a co-worker, a friend, a husband, a father. Anyone that knew Michael knows the only thing bigger than his smile was his heart."

They thanked everybody for their support and urged people to support the GoFundMe page set up to help cover medical bills and the costs of repatriating Mr Jennings's remains to Ireland.

Aoife Verdon, who set up the fundraiser, told the Irish Independent Mr Jennings was very well known, and there had been an outpouring of support from the Irish community living in the US.

She said: "We have had donations from people who don't know the family but are hearing about it."

By yesterday evening, over €28,000 had been raised.

The couple moved to the United States in recent years and they have two children, Siobhan and Danielle.

Mr Jennings, who was originally from Swinford, was a former chairman of the Mayo Women's Soccer League.

The current chair of the league, David Breen, said: "He was a great advocate for women's soccer."

He said he had learned about the tragedy in a phone call on Friday, and had since received many text messages and calls from people who knew Mr Jennings.

"People are absolutely saddened," he said.

Mr Jennings was chairman when the county won the FAI Women's Senior Cup in 2006, defeating UCD.

"It was a huge achievement," he said.

To donate, go to www.gofundme.com/f/jenning-family-fundraiser.

Irish Independent