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Tributes to Patrick McDonnell who died in US road tragedy

By Angela Rainey

Published 25/02/2016

Patrick McDonnell (striped shirt)
Patrick McDonnell (striped shirt)
Patrick McDonnell working on stained-glass windows

A Belfast father who was killed in a road accident in the US has been described as a "happy-go-lucky man" who was loved in his community.

Tributes have poured in for Patrick McDonnell (52), who died after being hit by a truck in North Carolina on Monday.

Mr McDonnell, an artist renowned for his skill in crafting stained-glass windows, was struck as he walked along a junction of Avent Ferry Road and Trotter Bluffs Drive, in the Holly Springs area.

The news comes only two weeks after his mother-in-law Theresa McConville (77) passed away from cancer.

Crash investigators in America said they would not be prosecuting the driver of the vehicle that struck Mr McDonnell from behind at around 11.15pm.

The father-of-three and grandfather-of-two moved to America four years ago and remarried, returning to Belfast several times a year to visit including a trip just before Christmas.

Those who remember him described him a "gentleman" and a "lovely man" who would be sadly missed.

Mr McDonnell's nephew Sean McCorry said: "My uncle was a happy-go-lucky man who was much-loved.

"He was very well-known around west Belfast. He was known for his stained-glass work here. I'd say nearly all of the stained-glass in west Belfast was made by him.

"He was just a happy-go-lucky man and we're all just terribly shocked by the news.

"He's left behind a family who are just absolutely devastated."

Mr McDonnell's wife Ursula will be flying back for the funeral. He also leaves children Patrick (27), Shannon (26) and Melissa (23), who are being comforted by relatives and friends.

Heartfelt tributes have come from around the world from those wishing to pay their respects to the lifelong Celtic fan who "lit up the room".

Nephew Conall McCorry (30) said the death of two loved ones in two weeks had devastated the whole family.

"We are still grieving for our grandmother who we've just buried and then to get the news about Uncle Paddy is just awful for the whole family," he added.

"Everybody is in shock and we are all devastated. Two deaths in a couple of weeks has hit us hard."

Mr McCorry told how when his uncle was home before Christmas, he called to see Mrs McConville, giving her a reassuring hug that he would be home again to see her very soon.

Neither knew that they would be buried only weeks apart.

"It sounds a cliché, but he literally was the life and soul of any party," Mr McCorry said. "When he walked in the room, you knew. He would talk to everyone there - he'd never pass you.

"He was good craic and although when he moved away he missed home and he missed the craic, he settled really well there.

"He had nothing but good stories to tell and he was happy.

"He loved having a good time, singing Celtic songs and St Patrick's Day.

"He even created a window with St Patrick on it."

Since news of the tragedy broke, an outpouring of condolences has flooded social media, including personal condolences from Holly Springs Town Hall in North Carolina.

"That's so typical of Patrick," said Mr McCorry.

"He was known everywhere he went. Even though he wasn't in America long, it's a comfort to know the people there knew and liked him enough to send their condolences."

Mr McDonnell's body is expected to be repatriated within the next 10 days, assisted by the Kevin Bell Repatriation Trust.

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