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Kieron died just 14 weeks after our wedding -- but he'll be there when I carry the Olympic flame

A tragic accident took Jennifer Deeney's husband from her. Now she's rebuilding her life, writes Graham Clifford

On July 23, four days before the opening ceremony of London 2012, Jennifer Deeney will carry the Olympic flame through the streets of Merton in South London.

The Mayo woman says she was "gobsmacked" when she discovered she'd been chosen as a torch bearer and she's thrilled to be part of the historic occasion. But the day will be bittersweet as her selection came as a result of a heartbreaking personal tragedy.

As Jennifer walked down the aisle with her new husband, Kieron, at Straide parish church in Mayo, on May 8, 2004, she thought life couldn't get any better. A new chapter had opened and with her soulmate beside her, the world was their oyster.

But just 14 weeks later she was back in the same church, with the same faces around her, to bury the man she loved. The tears of joy had been replaced by those of sheer heartbreak.

While working on a building site in London's Canary Wharf, 25-year-old Kieron Deeney from Rathmullan in Donegal fell through a rotten board, which was covering a disused lift shaft, and he died instantly when he hit the floor 30 feet below.

"He didn't even get to see the wedding pictures," says Jennifer, in her home in Kingsbury, North London, as she recounts their life together.

Even now, so many years later, memories of the night they first met are so vivd for Jennifer.

A week before Christmas in 1997, Jennifer, then a nurse, and a group of friends, decided to let their hair down and dropped into the popular Dicey Reilly's nightclub in Neasden.

Punters sang along to the 'Fairytale of New York' as immigrants gave London one last rattle before heading home.

In the helter-skelter of the bustling nightclub, Jennifer lost her friend in the crowd. After a quick search, she was told by fresh-faced Kieron that her friend had left with his.

The two started chatting and Kieron offered to walk Jennifer home. "You'll do no such thing," said the strong-minded Mayo woman, though secretly she knew she'd met her Mr Right.

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"On the way home in the car, I turned to one of my friends and told them I'm going to marry that guy," she recalls.

Over the next few months the couple grew closer. "It just felt right and after a couple of years we moved in together. I remember when he first met my parents.

"They came over to visit and I remember Kieron came up to the Nissan Micra we were in and put his head in the window and said 'hello mom and dad'. They were taken with him straight away," says Jennifer.

Describing him as "conscientious, sensible and kind", Jennifer says he was romantic, "but in his own unique way", and recounts his unconventional proposal of marriage in 2002.

"He didn't buy me a Christmas present and I was livid. On the day before New Year's Eve I let him have it, but he replied: 'I couldn't afford a Christmas present because I bought you a ring'," she recalls.

A year and a half later, Jennifer Kelly became Mrs Deeney. "From beginning to end the wedding day was perfect. It had rained down for days before, but for our wedding the sun shone."

A honeymoon to Thailand followed and plans for the future were discussed.

"Children were high on the agenda. I'm not career-minded as such. What I wanted most was to have a family with the man I loved, but as my niece put it after Kieron's accident, we just didn't have time," says Jennifer.

But tragedy was to befall the couple. Five months before his wedding, Kieron had mourned the death of a fellow Irish construction worker, but told Jennifer "it will never happen to me". Carpenter Patsy O'Sullivan died after falling 100 feet when scaffolding collapsed at Wembley Stadium. The 54-year-old from Macroom was pronounced dead at the scene.

It was a foreshadowing of Kieron's tragic fate. August 9 started like any other day for the newlyweds. Jennifer was finishing a night shift at the Royal London hospital while Kieron headed for work on a site down in Canary Wharf.

At around 1pm the couple chatted on the phone. "We talked about the usual stuff, what we'd have for dinner and things like that. I do remember at the end of the call I said 'love ya' and he replied 'right back at ya'," says Jennifer. They would be the last words shared between the couple.

Two hours later, her mobile rang with her brother-in-law Christopher's name flashing on the display. Immediately she sensed something was wrong.

Jennifer recalls: "He (Kieron's brother) said, 'Jen, there's been an accident but it's OK, the air ambulance is there'. At that point I knew Kieron was dead."

A friend rushed Jennifer to Lime House police station where an officer said: "I'm sorry to tell you your husband was involved in an accident and died this afternoon."

Jennifer had to wait over 24 hours before she could see Kieron's body. He had suffered extensive head injuries. "I wanted to see him but they wouldn't let me. When eventually I did, I wasn't allowed touch him. Words can't describe how devastating it was," she recounts.

"He was my world," says Jennifer. "He said once 'Sure, we're no good without each other', and he was right."

Kieron was laid to rest in Straide just three and a half months after his wedding day.

Today, Jennifer (37), a matron on the neonatal intensive care unit in the Royal London Hospital, spends time talking to construction workers about the importance of safety, and has been a regular visitor to the Olympic Park in London to speak with employees there. She's also the fundraising ambassador for the Lighthouse Club, which assists families whose loved ones have been injured or killed while working in construction.

"It's only in the last 18 months that I've started to find my feet," she says. "I became hard, very unemotional and I felt I'd lost everything. I became stuck in a rut trying to make sense of it all.

"The coroner returned a verdict of 'unlawful killing' and I joined the health and safety executive for a while, but I still couldn't move on. We built a memorial to Kieron down at Canary Wharf but then I had to re-learn who I was. Gradually, with help, I'm getting there but Kieron is with me -- always."


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