Tuesday 24 April 2018

The girl on the bike who was taken too soon

Donna Fox's partner Anne Marie Ryan (left) and her sister, Leanne, after her funeral mass at St Peter and Paul’s Church in Balbriggan Photo: Damien Eagers
Donna Fox's partner Anne Marie Ryan (left) and her sister, Leanne, after her funeral mass at St Peter and Paul’s Church in Balbriggan Photo: Damien Eagers
Maeve Sheehan

Maeve Sheehan

She was a girl on a bike who became the ninth cyclist to die on Irish roads this year. Behind that cold statistic was the vibrant Donna Fox (30), a sporty young woman who loved horses and her dog, dressing up for Halloween, and of course, the woman she planned to marry, Anne Marie Ryan.

At her funeral service in St Peter and Paul's Church, in Balbriggan, yesterday, family, friends and colleagues came together to remember Donna.

Vibrant: Cyclist Donna Fox (30) died on Tuesday
Vibrant: Cyclist Donna Fox (30) died on Tuesday

A photograph of her favourite pony, which was placed on her coffin, recalled her love of horses. A basket of health products reflected her passion for healthy living.

In his homily, Fr Chris Derwin remembered Donna as "a kind, loving and tender person, a girl with a gentle spirit".

"Those who know her agree she was sporty, active, lived a healthy lifestyle and loved her dog and horses. I believe she had a jockey's license," he said.

"A beautiful person, a beautiful life who was taken too soon," said Fr Derwin. "No one could have foreseen the tragic events of that day, but it has happened.

"She didn't die alone, she had people with her, people who supported her in her final moments. That's what we need to do with each other..."

Earlier in the ceremony, Donna's little nephew, Callum, offered up a prayer to keep cyclists safe on the roads.

Last Tuesday morning, Donna took her usual route to work as a health and nutrition expert at the Barrow Street outlet of Meagher's chemist in south Dublin city.

Her route took her from the north county Dublin suburbs and into the north inner city where she would cycle across the bridge, past the Grand Canal Basin to Barrow Street in Ringsend.

Donna lived with Anne Marie in a mobile home, beside her father Peter's home, outside Balbriggan. They were together for three years and were planning to build a house of their own.

Donna's father, Peter, said she used to pack her bike in the car and drive from her home near Balbriggan to Whitehall, park up and cycle the rest of the way into work.

"I asked her was it safe and she told me it was cycle lanes all the way and she was fine," he told the Irish Independent the day after her death last week.

That morning, Donna reached the busy junction of Seville Place and Guild Street, shortly before 11am where she was hit by a truck. A motorist jumped from her car to tend to Donna. Residents of Seville Place came from their homes to help. One woman rushed to get a defibrillator from a community centre across the road. But Donna was too severely injured to survive.

Donna was an experienced cyclist. She had taken part in charity cycles. Her father, Peter, said she was a girl who could "turn her hand to anything. She could drive a digger and do carpentry and everything. She was always on the go, never quiet," he told the Irish Independent.

Her partner, Anne Marie said that "she loved being outdoors".

"She said I was the better cook, so while she was out putting up fences or something in the rain, I would be inside making the dinner," Anne Marie said.

"We had hoped to build a life together, and get married after building a small house. We were actually due to go to a self-build expo on Saturday before going on holidays to Spain with my sister and her boyfriend on Sunday."

Two days after Donna was killed, her brother Neil went to lay flowers at Seville Place. The local community came out to comfort him.

"They brought me in for breakfast and it was just lovely," he said afterwards.

In his eulogy at her funeral Mass yesterday, Neil thanked the local community, along with gardai and emergency services, for all they did for Donna. He said five years ago, he stood in the same church, on the occasion of his mother, Catherine's death.

"There was the three of us, Donna, Leanne and me. My mam had died. I suppose a lot of people have text or rang in the last few days and said, 'well at least she's with your mammy now, you know?' There is some sort of comfort in that," he said.

Neil, Leanne and Donna "really were a team, the three of us," he said.

Donna and Leanne had "very similar likes, very similar interests and humour really. They loved each other."

She was the "kindest, sweetest sister you can imagine", he said. "Leanne said she didn't have a sister anymore. But she does. Donna is with us and will always be with us, no matter what."

Donna was laid to rest yesterday beside her mother, Catherine, at Ardla Cemetery in Balbriggan. She is survived by Anne Marie, her father Peter, her sister Leanne and brother Neil, her nephew Callum and her aunts, uncles, cousins and extended family.

Sunday Independent

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