Tributes to launderette owner after fatal blast
A FATHER killed in an explosion that levelled his business premises and damaged nearby buildings has been remembered as a "kind and caring family man who was devoted to his home town".
The body of James Gleeson (59) was recovered from the rubble of his launderette on Brewery Lane in Killarney, Co Kerry, at about 11am yesterday.
His remains were taken to Kerry General Hospital, where they were formally identified and where a post-mortem examination was due to be carried out.
Mr Gleeson had been missing since the previous morning when an explosion caused by a suspected gas leak at his business at 6.20am brought the town to a standstill. The blast was heard up to 2km away.
Emergency workers resumed their search of the debris at 7.30am yesterday after it had been suspended at nightfall on Saturday.
Much of the town centre remained sealed off until yesterday evening, when College Square and Plunkett Street were re-opened to traffic.
Mr Gleeson's cousin, local town councillor Michael Gleeson, said he was held in high esteem, and the whole town was shocked by the tragedy.
"James was a very quiet, caring person who had a great affection for people and for Killarney's wonderful natural environment," Mr Gleeson told the Irish Independent.
Mr Gleeson and his wife Grace were heavily involved in a number of voluntary organisations in the town, including the Rotary Club and Killarney Tidy Towns.
Their son, Eoin (18), had just completed his Leaving Cert earlier this summer at The Sem.
"James and Eoin spent many hours walking and cycling in the National Park, and James enjoyed its great beauty," his cousin added.
"He contributed hugely to the cultural life of Killarney and was a great supporter of the arts.
"He was also involved in Tidy Towns and did a wonderful job of ensuring his own area and the town in general looked its best."
He said he would be remembered also for the dignified manner in which he conducted his business and his co-operation with other business people in the town.
Mr Gleeson had been looking forward to enjoying a short break with his wife in Kilkenny, but had gone to work as normal early on Saturday morning to start the machines.
Concerns for his safety grew by late morning, and it was originally hoped that he had gone for a cycle.
However, by 8am people who knew him well said he'd never leave it so late to come into the shop.
Concerns had also been expressed for a number of people living in apartments on the lane but, by Saturday evening, all had been accounted for and were safe and well.
Guests at the adjoining International Hotel had a lucky escape and all 170 were evacuated safely at 6.30am and are now being accommodated at other hotels.