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Father who died with his wife and baby in car crash was ‘going to make a significant contribution’ to environmental science

Fundraising page raises more than €50,000 in just a few hours


Karzan Sabah Ahmed (left), Shahen Qasm and their eight-month-old baby Lena

Karzan Sabah Ahmed (left), Shahen Qasm and their eight-month-old baby Lena

Karzan Sabah Ahmed (left), Shahen Qasm and their eight-month-old baby Lena

A father who died with his wife and baby daughter in a car crash last week was “going to make a significant contribution” to environmental science.

Karzan Sabah Ahmed (36), Shahen Qasm (31), and their eight-month-old Lena were killed following a road collision in Galway last Thursday.

A fundraising page set up to help with the costs of bringing to their original home in Kurdistan had raised more than €50,000 in just a few hours. 

Polish national Jonasz Lach (42) was driving the wrong way down the M6 at speeds of up to 120km/h before he ploughed head on into their car near Ballinasloe.

The family were originally from the Kurdistan region, north Iraq, and had recently been living in Galway city.

They had been due to relocate to Carlow where Karzan had taken up a role with Teagasc, the Agricultural and Food Development Authority.

In a statement the state agency expressed their sadness at the tragic deaths while paying tribute to their colleague.

“After completing his PhD in Environmental Science in a joint NUIG – Teagasc FarmEcos project, Karzan commenced a research position in Teagasc Oak Park, Carlow on the BioCrops Project.

“Although Karzan had only recently started working with us he had already impressed everyone who met him with his enthusiasm, work ethic and friendly demeanour.

“A skilled entomologist with extensive experience in Iraq, UK and Ireland, Karzan had already published widely and it was clear he was going to make a significant contribution and achieve his goals.

“At this time, our thoughts and prayers go out to Karzan and Shahen’s families in Iraq and their extended network of friends in the Irish Kurdish community.,” Teagasc said.

The agency added that they are in the process of compiling a book of condolences to pass onto the family.

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Plans are also being put in place for a memorial service which will take place at a later date at NUI Galway.

The families loved ones in Kurdistan are also hoping to repatriate them home as soon as possible.

Hiwa Wahab, the founder of the Kurdish Art Nergz Group, said the Irish Kurdish community was “devastated” by the scale and horror of the crash.

“This young family had a huge, bright future to establish. They had a beautiful life in Ireland, and look what has happened to them.”

Chaplin at NUI Galway Fr Ben Hughes paid tribute to the “outstanding scientist”.

“The impact of this tragic loss has certainly ignited a huge compassionate sense of timeless and heartfelt support right across the country and among the NUI Galway community. Our support and sympathy is certainly with the family who are back home in Kurdistan,” Fr Hughes told RTE’s Drivetime.

Fr Huges said through Karzan’s friends and the Kurdish community, the University has made contact with his family in Kurdistan who are “tremendously grateful for the support they have received.

“For them, they are now moving through the shock, the loss, the sadness and their priority is to hopefully get the bodies of their loved ones back home as soon as possible,” Fr Hughes said.

Mr Hughes said the deceased was an “outstanding scientist and avid researcher”, and his PhD in agriculture had been noted by Teagasc who had recently recruited the student.

“Sadly this will not happen, but it is a mark of his work,” said Fr Hughes.

Karzan’s supervisor, Professor Mike Gormally at NUI Galway, also paid tribute to his former student.

“Karzan was an excellent student, a scientist with a promising career ahead of him. Karzan had a big heart and he couldn’t do enough for other people and always tackled a challenge with positivity,” Prof Gormally said in a note read by Fr Hughes.

“Everything was going well for Karzan, the birth of his beautiful daughter Lena last December, the successful completion of the PhD in August, and now his new position with Teagasc.

“Since his passing at NUI Galway, we’ve learned of many friends inland around Galway and beyond that he endeared himself so well too and that was a testament to Karzan.”

The bodies of the tragic family will now be repatriated to Iraq and a fundraiser to help pay for the cost has raised more than €50,000 in just five hours on Monday night.

John Carey, the organiser of the fundraiser, said: “On Thursday, August 19, a light was extinguished from so many lives”.

“Our friend and colleague Karzan, along with his wife Shahen and their nine-month-old baby Lina were cruelly taken from the world. We were all left devastated, heartbroken and confused by such a senseless loss. Their lives were only just beginning, with Karzan having just submitted his PhD thesis, secured a new job, and of course the unbridled joy of Lina being born. They were so happy. The only small comfort we have is knowing that they are still together.

“We now desperately want to repatriate them back to their families in Erbil in the Kurdish region of Iraq so that they can be close to their loved ones. It would have meant a great deal to Karzan and Shahen.”

“You would not have met two nicer people, who loved Ireland and touched the lives of those they met. Many of us didn't get to meet Lina, and she never got to meet her family in Iraq. The shortness of her life is particularly difficult to understand. The least we can do is try and get them home so that they can find some peace,” John said on the GoFundMe page.

A funeral service for Jonasz Lach is also due to be held for immediate family and friends. A death notice had been posted online but has since been removed.

Lach had been living in the Portumna area of Galway and was facing charges relating to dangerous driving in Dublin.

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