Hit-and-run pictures ‘intensified pain and loss’

GRAPHIC media pictures taken at the scene of the hit-and-run that claimed the lives of two Irish women on a visit to Rome intensified the pain and loss of both families, mourners heard yesterday.

Canon Willie Fitzmaurice, an uncle of one of the two victims — Elizabeth Gubbins, 27, from Lisnagry — addressed a packed congregation at Castleconnell Parish Church.

“Their going looked like a disaster — their leaving us like annihilation,” he said. While Elizabeth and Mary were the innocent victims of “wayward irresponsibility”, he said the family acknowledged the expressions of condolence offered by the father of the driver.

Friedrich Vernarelli, 32, the son of a former Rome police chief and politician, remains in custody since being charged with the manslaughter of the two friends and with drink driving.

Mourners were led by Elizabeth’s father Tom, her brother David, and her sisters Ita, Lucy, Marie and Helen.

Elizabeth was the second youngest and her mother, Eileen — a sister of Canon Fitzmaurice — died in 1997.

Elizabeth and her friend, Mary Collins from Athy, Co Kildare, died instantly when a car ploughed into them at a pedestrian crossing. The pair were returning to their hotel after a night out celebrating on St Patrick’s Day.

Canon Fitzmaurice, who concelebrated the requiem mass with 19 other priests, said Elizabeth’s humanity was now gone and all the colourful aspects of it. “Also her hopes, ambitions, dreams and aspirations. The sad loss of Elizabeth will be agonisingly rehearsed and played out for many a day, but the horror of the moment cannot wipe out the love that inhabited her life — a life we celebrate even more in the midst of a tragic death.

“There was so much to love in Elizabeth’s life. This will continue to shine forth for love is immortal,” he said. He recalled his niece’s education, which culminated with a master’s in biochemistry from Trinity College Dublin.

Canon Fitzmaurice said: “She will be a big loss in that field and in the company that she worked with in Tullamore.”

He referred to her love of outdoor sports, walking and music.

Canon Fitzmaurice added: “She was very much fit for life, but not fit for death. She was very generous with her time, never hesitating to help out her sisters and helping with the babysitting duties.

“Through her music, in which she was very accomplished, she brought much cheer in the lives of others. She was quiet, unassuming, considerate and always in good form. She was a committed young person who derived great strength from her faith and from her constant prayers. It is not easy for family or friends to come to terms with Elizabeth’s loss, but they will always remember her as a young girl who will never grow old.”

One of Elizabeth’s friends, who was with the two women on the visit to Rome, gave one of the readings at the mass.

The burial took place at Kilmurry cemetery.

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