Fundraiser for the Kevin Bell Repatriation Trust, a charity based in Newry, Co. Down that flies bodies back home to Ireland after a death abroad, to be held by the Co. Longford Association in New York.
A fundraiser for the Kevin Bell Repatriation Trust, a charity based in Newry, Co. Down that flies bodies back home to Ireland after a death abroad, will take place in New York on Saturday, February 9, hosted by family members and friends of the late Danny McGee, who was killed outside a Queens pub in the early hours of Thanksgiving morning last year.
Traveling over for the fundraiser is Colin Bell, father of Kevin Bell, who was killed in the Bronx in June of 2013 by a hit and run driver who was never caught. The Bell family created the trust to keep Kevin’s memory alive, and to assist other suddenly bereaved families cope with tragedy.
During an interview with the Irish Voice, Colin Bell said that the trust, since its inception in 2013, has paid for 651 bodies to be flown home to Ireland, 26 of them from New York.
“Our work has shown that Kevin’s death was not totally in vain and that some good has come out of it,” said Bell.
After Kevin’s death, a series of fundraisers in Newry to assist the Bells raised £150,000, much more than the family needed. A week after Kevin’s burial, the Bells heard of another family in Belfast shocked by the news that their loved one had been killed in Thailand.
“So we contacted the parents and said we had the money to bring him home,” Bell said.
“Then a couple of weeks later we learned that a young fellow from Sligo had died in Las Vegas. Again, we contacted the parents to tell them that we would bring their son home.” The Bell family’s work became increasingly vital, and before long the Kevin Bell Repatriation Trust was established. Charitable status eventually was granted in the North and the Irish Republic.
The trust is run by the Bell family, and all of its funding is sourced from the public through various initiatives like raffles, skydives, marathons and fundraising nights.
Because the trust has brought home hundreds of bodies, Bell says that he has gotten to know undertakers in all parts of the world.
“In Perth, Australia, we once brought home eight people in the space of a fortnight. All of them died through unrelated accidents,” he said.
The trust works with undertakers and makes all arrangements to return the body home. Depending on where the tragedy happens, the process can take anywhere from a few days to weeks.
The trust was on hand to assist the McGee family when they got the dreaded call that Danny, 21, was killed by a single punch outside the Gaslight bar in Queens. The man who threw the punch, Steven O’Brien, is facing an assault charge and is due back in Queens Criminal Court later this month.
The McGee family, with the assistance of the Co. Longford Association will host Saturday’s fundraiser at John Sullivan’s, 210 West 35th Street, New York, from 5-11 p.m. There will be a live auction, 50-50, deejay and more. Call Timmy Murphy at 718-578-8761 for information.
Colin Bell is happy to have the chance to say thanks for the support. “We always want to thank everyone from all over the world for their support of the work we do,” he said.
Here's a video telling the story of the Kevin Bell Repatriation Trust: