Mourners at the funerals of three victims of a blaze in their home heard this week how it was the second fire tragedy to strike the family.
Dessie McDonald, 75, his wife Patsy, and their red-haired daughter Patricia, 34, died when fire swept through their two-storey home at Lisnabrack, outside Manorhamilton, Co. Leitrim, in the early hours of last Saturday.
At their funeral Mass on Tuesday the death of Mrs. McDonald’s nephew, Patrick Joyce, three years ago was also remembered in prayers.
He was a 39-year-old fireman in Yonkers, New York, who lost his life when he ran into a blazing building on October 2, 2009, when he thought there were two women trapped inside.
Trapped by flames and smoke, he was forced to jump from the top floor of a three-story building set on fire by an arsonist at Waverly Street in Yonkers.
His twin brother Peter, a Yonkers fireman, and their older brother Marty, a New York fireman, were among the mourners at the three funerals in Leitrim. Marty recalled growing up in the Bronx with his McDonald cousins, Patricia, Joanne and Jennifer. He said he regarded them as “surrogate sisters.”
Later Marty said, “At one stage I thought I had dealt with the most miserable moment in my life when I knew Patrick died, then to get a phone call like I had last Saturday was beyond belief.”
The funeral priest, Father John McMahon, recalled that Dessie McDonald, a retired New York bus driver who returned to his native area 15 years ago, had a good humor and “would lift a person’s heart.”
The priest recalled that Mrs. McDonald, who returned to Ireland a few months ago after dividing her last years between New York and Leitrim, spent most of her life in the Bronx, devoted to her family.
Patricia had returned to Ireland a few years ago, and in recent months worked in local community radio with a dream of broadcasting and doing documentaries.
The priest said, “All this was cut short in the early hours of last Saturday morning.”
Fire crew battling last Saturday’s blaze carried the bodies from upstairs windows of a two-story house as they continued to fight the blaze which had already destroyed the stairs.
Gardai (police) have ruled out foul play as a source for the blaze which they believe started in the living-room adjoining the kitchen in an open plan design.