Belfast Telegraph

Friday 1 August 2014

Irish man shot in spine after bike parking row

An Irish man is battling for his life in Central America after he was shot following a bizarre row over where he parked his bicycle.

Joe O'Donnell (41) sustained horrific spinal injuries in the attack in Honduras on August 19. The attack is understood to have arisen out of a dispute with a local person.



Mr O'Donnell was shot in the back with a revolver, rupturing his spinal cord. He has undergone two operations so far to save his life.



His distraught family has appealed for help to return him to Australia for treatment.



Mr O'Donnell -- who holds Australian and Irish citizenship -- was transferred from Roatan Island where the shooting occurred to Cemasa hospital in San Pedro on the mainland where he had emergency surgery to stabilise his condition.



His family has been told that his medical bills could top thousands of dollars, and that his insurance policy is not adequate to cover them.



The victim's aunt, Kitty Nelan from Derrylee, Tralee, Co Kerry, said she first heard of her nephew's injuries when his Japanese-born mother Yuri rang her from Australia in the middle of the night in a distressed state.



"We're very stressed about it and we don't know who to turn to," a visibly upset Mrs Nelan told the Irish Independent.



"I gather Joe has no feeling in his legs. He was brought in a truck first of all after the shooting. It was just horrendous. It all just sounds crazy what happened to him.

"His mother is very much alone really since my brother passed away and she has no back-up and I find it really hard to understand all that's happening over there.



"I don't know what's going to happen about bringing him home but his friends have set up an account to help with costs."



It is understood an Australian embassy official will visit Mr O'Donnell in hospital on September 5.



His father, Sean, who died in 2004, was born in Tralee, and raised in Annascaul before he moved to Australia. Mr O'Donnell, who is single, has been a regular visitor and travelled home to attend his cousin Brian Nelan's wedding three years ago, just before he moved to Honduras.



A diving instructor and fitness fanatic, he was planning to open his own diving shop on Roatan Island. He had been buying equipment to kit out his shop when he was involved in an altercation with the wife of the gunman, who accosted him over parking his bicycle in some bushes.



The gunman later went to police and a court hearing has been set for September 14.



Several people witnessed Mr O'Donnell being shot just after noon on August 19.



An 18-year-old island resident with military training came to his aid and inserted a finger into the bullet hole in an attempt to stop the bleeding.



Kerry TD and Arts Minister Jimmy Deenihan has contacted the Nelan family and has approached the Department of Foreign Affairs on their behalf.



The victim's friends have launched a Facebook campaign to raise awareness about his plight. They hope the Australian authorities will arrange for his transportation back to Australia. Mrs Nelan is hoping that Irish immigrants who hear of his plight will contact the Australian government and urge it to help.



Source Irish Independent

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