The Irish community in New York are mourning the loss of Kevin Bell, a young Irish immigrant who died in a tragic hit-and-run accident early Sunday morning in the Bronx.
Locals expressed outrage after it was discovered the Irish man’s body was stuffed into the back of a city Medical Examiner’s Office van, next to plastic bags of recyclable bottles.
A Medical Examiner’s Office spokeswoman said an investigation was underway.
"The staff member in question has been suspended without pay pending an investigation. We are taking this very seriously," she told the New York Post.
She said Bell had died of trauma to the head. The death was accidental a post mortem found.
“We’re taking this incident very seriously, and we are actively investigating it at this time,” said the ME spokesman.
Kevin Bell, 26, originally from Kileavy, Co Down died after being struck by a minivan. He leaves behind his parents, Colly and Eithne, a twin brother Brendan, three other brothers and two sisters.
A talented Irish dancer, Bell moved to New York less than a year ago and was working in construction. He was also a talented GAA player and played with the Armagh team here in New York.
“Kevin was a larger than life character, and although it may be cliché he was the life and soul of every party,” a statement on a special website the Late Great Kevin Bell read. “Everyone knew and loved him, and those who didn't know him, knew of him.”
It is understood Bell had been drinking with friends on the Upper East Side before he made the return trip home on his own. Witnesses say he stumbled before he seemingly fell in the middle of the road before he was crushed by an oncoming car.
Marielly Ramos, 33, was driving on East 233rd when she noticed Bell seemingly lying on the ground.
“I’m the only one who stopped the car to run to him. People were just driving by,’’ she said. “And they throw him in a car full of garbage? It’s upsetting. He’s somebody’s child. You wouldn’t even do that to an animal.’’
“I’m like, ‘What is he doing? . . . Someone is going to drive over him,’ and I realize I have to hurry,” Ramos recalled.
“I put on my hazards and pull over and start running toward him and saying, ‘Hey! Hey!’ In a matter of seconds, he was hit.
“It was a gray sedan. By the time I got there, there was blood dripping down the side of his face.
“I was crying and crying,’’ Ramos said, “And people were looking at me and said, ‘Did you know him?’ I said, ‘Do I have to know him to care? ’
She concluded: “Whoever ran over him probably didn’t see him.’’
A statement from the Órla Kelleher, Executive Director of the Aisling Irish Center in New York confirmed they were working with Aer Lingus to ensure Bell's body would be flown back to Ireland without any unnecessary delays.
SDLP MLA Dominic Bradley, a neighbour and a friend described Bell as "a vivacious and hard-working lad".
"In the days ahead there will be a large expression of support and sympathy that will help his family through and that support will always be there for them. That's part of what's keeping them going. They are heartbroken and devastated, but there is great consolation in the support people are showing them."