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Tributes flood in for Ulster GAA player killed in New York hit-and-run

By Claire Graham

Published 17/06/2013

Newry man Kevin Bell killed in hit and run
Newry man Kevin Bell killed in hit and run

A talented young GAA player from Northern Ireland who was killed in a hit-and-run collision in New York was "the life and soul of every party", a friend has said.

A community has been left in shock at the death of Irish dancer Kevin Bell from Kileavy, Co Down.

The construction worker was killed in the early hours of yesterday on Oneida Avenue in the Bronx. The 26-year-old is believed to have died instantly from impact on a "treacherous stretch of highway", the New York Post reported.

Tributes poured in yesterday for Mr Bell, a twin, who had "everything to live for".

The St Moninna GAA player and talented Scor Irish dancing competitor worked as a labourer.

The day before he died, he spoke to close friend Patricia Heaney -- who was scheduled to fly out and visit him in two weeks' time -- on the phone.

She said he had been excited about seeing a familiar face and they had been planning nights out.

"It's hard to believe I was just speaking to him yesterday on the phone," she said.

"Kevin was a larger than life character, and although it is a cliche, he was the life and soul of every party. Everyone knew and loved him, and those who didn't know him, knew of him."

Devastated friends have launched a social media campaign to raise enough money to bring Mr Bell's body home. A fundraising quiz in the Canal Court Hotel and a 10K run later this week aim to raise funds to cover his repatriation and funeral.

Ms Heaney said she never thought Kevin's would be a memorial she would ever have to think about.

"He always made jokes about my job as funeral director, and to make sure I done a good job of his -- never did I think I would ever see the day. My heart is broke for his family and vast circle of friends," she said.

"Preparations are under way in order for his remains to be repatriated to his home town, hopefully within the coming week."

He leaves behind his parents, a twin brother Brendan, three other brothers and two sisters.

SDLP MLA Dominic Bradley is a neighbour and a friend. He described Mr Bell as "a vivacious and hard-working lad".

He said as the reality of what has happened starts to take hold of his family circle and community, the "local, loveable lad" will be remembered for life and soul he brought to every room.

QUOTES

"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."

Dominic Bradley MLA

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