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Tuesday 16 July 2019

'Stephen was too good to be true' - family mourns car fanatic killed in crash

Rita and Mark Gleeson, parents of Stephen Gleeson, with his sister Nicole (on right) in Stephen’s garage with his beloved cars and (at back) girlfriend Jade Fahy and friends Courtney Reilly and Kieran O’Brien. Photo: Mark Condren
Rita and Mark Gleeson, parents of Stephen Gleeson, with his sister Nicole (on right) in Stephen’s garage with his beloved cars and (at back) girlfriend Jade Fahy and friends Courtney Reilly and Kieran O’Brien. Photo: Mark Condren

Aoife Walsh

The heartbroken family and friends of a young man killed in a car crash have opened up about their devastation at the tragic loss.

Stephen Gleeson (21), from Nenagh, Co Tipperary, died on July 1 in an early-morning accident.

His parents, Rita and Mark, said their son was “a great character” who “just seemed too good to be true”.  

His father said Stephen had an avid interest in doing up cars which started at a very young age.

He bought his first car, a Ford Capri, at age 11 with savings made up of his communion money and small donations from his parents.

“We used to go to the car shows in England, and I used to take him places when he was buying donor cars and bits and pieces,” Mr Gleeson told Independent.ie.

Stephen Gleeson (21) who tragically lost his life in a single car accident in Tipperary. Photo: Mark Condren
Stephen Gleeson (21) who tragically lost his life in a single car accident in Tipperary. Photo: Mark Condren

Garage

“He bought an Mk1 Fiesta then. He did the Fiesta up to the last.

“He’d be wheeling and dealing. He’d come in and say ‘I’m after making a right few quid off that lad’, but I think because he was so young people wouldn’t rip him off.

“They were probably giving him more than what the parts were worth. It was extraordinary to witness it.”

The Gleeson family talk about their loss. Photo: Mark Condren
The Gleeson family talk about their loss. Photo: Mark Condren

Fuelling his love for restoring and repairing cars, his parents built Stephen a garage at the back of their house where he would spend hours on end transforming the Ford Fiesta which he finished working on the day before the accident.

Stephen’s ruby red cars will be given “pride of place” at a car show in Nenagh during the August bank holiday.

His older sister, Nicole, said they were “so close” growing up, and managed to nurture their relationship despite doing their “own thing” as they grew older.

“We always checked in on each other. We’d always make sure that each of our days was going OK and each of us was happy. He was very much quietly supportive and loving,” she said.

“If anyone ever did anything or hurt me, he was raging. He was kind of like a big brother in some ways.

“We were all we had growing up. We grew up in the middle of nowhere, so everything we did together. Every game, every walk, it was just me and Stevie.”

Stephen’s mother said the support of the community and his friends had “kept us going”, as well as being a “real reflection” of his character.

“It’s only at a time like that you realise how much the community pull together and how it can devastate a whole community. You think that it’s just a small circle but it ripples out from it,” his father added.

Stephen, nicknamed ‘Stevie’ or ‘Stevo’ by his loved ones, was a fan of techno music and festivals. His girlfriend, Jade, said she took a liking to him from the first time they met four years ago.

“Every time I see him, like I’d always have butterflies. He had such a reasonable head on his shoulders, so smart,” she said.

“He always had a job, he always had something to look forward to. He lived his life the way you should.”

Advice

Stephen’s close childhood friend Kieran “looked up” to him, always turning to him for advice. The pair were as “thick as thieves”.

Another close friend, Courtney, said his “presence always just lit up the room”.

Stephen and three other men, two in their early 20s and a 19-year-old, were travelling along the Portroe to Garykennedy road when the accident happened.

Stephen, who was in the back seat, was pronounced dead at the scene.

A Garda spokesman said: “The other three occupants of the car, two men in their 20s and one man in his late teens, were taken to University Hospital Limerick with non life-threatening injuries. Gardai are appealing for information.”

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