THE parents of a five-year-girl killed in a traffic accident were last night being comforted by family and friends.
Maria McGinley Greene was playing with her cousins near her home in St Brigid's Place in Portlaoise on Saturday when she was struck by a van at around 12.20pm.
It is understood that the vehicle was being driven by a local woman who was questioned at the scene by gardai.
The girl was taken to the Midland's Regional Hospital for treatment but was later pronounced dead.
The girl's parents Stephen and Amanda and her seven-month-old brother were joined by relatives and friends at their home yesterday, where a private wake was held ahead of the funeral tomorrow.
A close family friend described Maria as "a lovely little child".
They told The Herald that there was a sense of despair in the town following the tragedy.
One friend said: "There's a sense of deep, deep anguish, and great shock. For them, it's a bad dream from which they want to wake up. The life of their vibrant, beautiful daughter has been suddenly taken, and with that their hearts have been broken as well.
"But they're a very strong family unit, and they come from a very good community, which have rallied around them in support.
"There's a vulnerability and a real sense of tragedy amongst the whole parish."
The youngster had been a junior infant at Portlaoise Gaelscoil, which she had been attending since last September and had quickly taken to the Irish language.
The tragic incident happened just a month after her family celebrated Maria's fifth birthday on February 7.
The girl's aunt Doreen Greene posted a status update on Facebook after the incident, telling friends: "My beautiful niece Maria, my perfect little angel in the sky."