The family of a man who died suddenly in Australia has praised the work of the Kevin Bell Repatriation Trust and the Claddagh Association.
Helena Peppard said although it was the middle of the night when she messaged the Claddagh group in Perth, somebody got back to her straight away.
Her brother Jamie, 23, had been put on life support after collapsing at work in Perth where his brother John was already living and working.
His parents Mary and Tony flew out to him and he was in intensive care when they arrived. Sadly, he died 10 days later on November 23 last year.
Helena, who was in Laytown, Co Meath contacted the Claddagh Association in Perth and “someone went straight away to the hospital in Perth to be with John”.
When their mum Mary arrived in Perth, the group put her in touch with the Kevin Bell Repatriation Trust who assured her she could have whatever funeral she wanted for her son.
“People normally are brought home in coffins but the way I looked at it was I didn’t want him treated as luggage and going into storage on the plane. I carried him into the world, I will carry him out.”
Jamie was cremated in Australia and his family carried his ashes home with them in the plane cabin.
A service was then held in his hometown of Laytown and part of his ashes were used to plant a tree in at a local garden at Sonairte.
Mary said: “I planted a tree with his ashes underneath and there is a bench and you can sit and reflect. We call it Jamie’s tree and his DNA will be in it for as long as it lasts.”
The Kevin Bell Repatriation Trust, set up in 2013 by the family of Kevin Bell, 26, after he died in a hit and run in New York, is now preparing its 221st repatriation.
Colin Bell, Kevin’s dad, outlined what they do to the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs.
Mr Bell has confirmed that the trust — which is registered as a charity in Northern Ireland and is seeking to be registered as one in the Republic — has opened an office in Newry, Co Down, which is Kevin’s hometown.
He said it costs up to €8,000 to get a body home to Ireland, depending on what part of the world it is coming from and they cover all of the expenses.
“We assure people we will get their loved one home. We contact undertakers and make arrangements to get the body home.
“The amazing thing is we don’t have to fundraise. It is people who fundraise for us. I have been in parts of Ireland I had not even heard of because there has been fundraising there. We get fantastic support.”
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