Friday 23 February 2018

Irish storm victim: 'He was the best husband and father anyone could wish for'

Dad killed by tree had only buried own father in August

Tributes are pouring in for the Irish father who died after he was "in the wrong place at the wrong time" when his car was struck by a falling tree in the UK.

Donal Drohan (51) was crushed to death when a 40ft tree fell on his car in Watford, near London.

Meanwhile it has emerged that he had returned to Ireland only two months ago to bury his father.

The father-of-three, who is originally from St John's Park in Waterford, was described as a loving husband and father-of-three.

The Harrow council worker's family said: "He was the best husband and father anyone could wish for. You couldn't find anyone who had a bad word to say about him."

"He was very supportive to everybody who knew him and couldn't say no to helping out with anything."

He died when a tree fell on his moving car in Watford because he was in the "wrong place at the wrong time", an officer who attended the scene has said.

The officer, who did not want to be named, added that a millisecond's difference would have made for "a different story".

The officer added: "This is a major artery into Watford and we were lucky it was school half-term. If it wasn't we'd have had a lot more traffic coming through here."

Mr Drohan – an operations manager with Harrow Council in north-west London – was driving along Lower High Street in Watford at around 6.50am when the tragedy occurred.

The 51-year-old – who was the only person in the Peugeot – was pronounced dead at the scene.

The jagged stump of the tree, about three feet across and broken 12 feet up, could be seen in the greenery at the side of the road.

Investigators examined the site to rule out foul play before the main part of the tree trunk was lifted off the car with a mobile crane and loaded on to a container truck. The rest of the tree was fed into a shredder lorry.

Richard Searle, director of Quality Lounge Suites in Watford, said the incident was "very upsetting" and he was "very sorry" for the man's family.

He said: "It happened about a minute before I got here. I was driving to work - normally I try to get in early - and as I got here, the traffic had slowed down. I couldn't go straight in, so I pulled on the drive, parked my car up, and then I walked down the road assuming there'd been an accident.

"I noticed as I walked down there that a tree had fallen on top of a red Peugeot. I didn't like the look of what I saw and it was too late for me to do anything. One minute earlier and it could have been me. I will say the police and ambulance were very quick to arrive."

Roger Rogero, 54, a sales consultant at HSS Hire, also arrived at work just after the accident happened at the junction near a Wickes store and a Mercedes showroom.

He said: "There was a police car just outside us, officers stationed by the telephone box, and loads of police and police cars in Wickes, opposite the Mercedes dealer. I could see four or five police cars, ambulances, and fire engines. Beyond that it was just a mess, chaos."

The car had been travelling south-eastwards - on the opposite side of the road to the tree that fell - and was towed away just before 11am, he added.

Michael Walsh (74), a close family friend who lives in John's Park, said Mr Drohan returned to Ireland following his father's death on August 21.

"I knew Donal many years ago, but I was good friends with his father, Tony, and knew him very well," Mr Walsh told the Irish Independent.

"I used to go fishing and scuba diving with Tony for years. Donal got married in England and I hadn't seen him for 30 years since he emigrated.

"Tony was very well known in the area because he worked in a psychiatric hospital in Ferrybank in Co Kilkenny. I was only talking to Donal six weeks ago.

"One of Donal's sisters rang me the morning the father died to let me know. I knew Tony like one of my brothers or sisters.

"Donal's mother, Agnes, has been living in Riverstown in Tramore for nearly 15 years. This must have come as some shock to her. I knew Donal when he was 19 before he went off to England like everybody else at the time to search for work.

"He was home for his father's funeral and he hadn't changed.

"This will come as a right shock to his mother who's only getting over one death."

In total, four people have died from the violent storm which battered southern England.

A teenager in Kent was also killed by a falling tree, while a man and a woman died after a suspected gas explosion at a house in west London.

Millions of commuters were forced to abandon their travel plans yesterday as trains, planes and ferry services were cancelled or suffered severe delays.

Mark O'Regan

Irish Independent

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