Thursday 18 July 2019

Student dies in US after diving from pier

Denise Clarke and Tom Gilmore

FRIENDS of an Irishman who featured in a RTE documentary about students on summer visas to the US paid tribute to him last night after his death in an accident in Chicago.

Keith O'Reilly (21), from Galway, suffered head injuries after apparently diving off a pier into shallow water.

The engineering student, who last year appeared in RTE's 'J1 Summer in the Sun', suffered head trauma and a possible broken neck.

The accident happened at North Avenue Beach in the city, last Thursday morning at 4.19am. It's understood his girlfriend and a group of his friends were with him at the time of the incident.

Chicago police officer Robert Perez last night told the Irish Independent they are treating the incident as a "non-criminal death".

"He hit the bottom of the shallow part of the lake, which is an area filled with rocks, and struck his head," he said.

His shocked family and friends held a vigil at his bedside as he remained in a critical condition in Chicago's Northwestern Memorial Hospital.

Mr O'Reilly, from Woodhaven, Merlin Park, in Galway city, died on Saturday evening.

His parents, Yvonne and Liam, who flew out from Ireland at the weekend, and some of his friends were at his bedside.

A post-mortem on his body was carried out at Cook County medical examiner's office yesterday.

Former Galway publican Billy Lawless, now a restaurant owner in Chicago, was among those who were at his bedside when Mr O'Reilly passed away.

He described it as a sad and poignant scene. "A lovely group of his young friends were there when he passed away.

"They are all devastated and of course it is a terrible shock to the students who are out here for the summer," he said.

A talented rugby player with Galway Corinthians RFC, Mr O'Reilly was due to begin his final year in engineering at NUI Galway in October.

Galway City councillor in the Merlin Park area, Terry O'Flaherty, said it is "very tragic for his family and friends".

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