Popular Irish artist dies in crash

Tributes have poured in for an Irish musician killed in a hit-and-run incident on a Florida highway.

Popular Irish artist dies in crash

Martin O’Connor, 41, a drummer for a host of country and Irish performers, was hit by a BMW SUV in the early hours of Saturday as he crossed US 441 in Florida.

The police report described Mr O’Connor, from Frenchpark in Co Roscommon, as an “Irish tourist” and said the driver had fled the scene, sparking a search of the area.

“Just before 5am, the victim and two friends, who were visiting from Ireland, were walking south on a sidewalk next to US 441 in North Lauderdale on their way back from a bar to their hotel,” according to the police report. “For unknown reasons, the victim began walking across the road, and he was hit.”

The report outlined how “after a day of searching”, traffic homicide detectives arrested the driver of the car and recovered the vehicle later on Saturday. Richard Jennings of Hollywood is now facing a charge of leaving the scene of an accident causing death.

According to police, after Mr O’Connor was struck, Jennings, who was driving his girlfriend’s black BMW, fled the scene. “An acquaintance of his who saw the damaged vehicle notified Broward Sheriff’s Office. Detectives arrested him at his Hollywood home shortly after 6pm.”

It is thought Mr O’Connorhad been due to play drums for singer Declan Nerney this week on board the sold-out All Star Irish Caribbean Charter Cruise, which was due to sail from Port Everglades on Saturday for a seven-day Caribbean trip. The Irish-themed cruise on a Holland America Line ship features several country and Irish acts, led by Daniel O’Donnell.

It is understood Mr O’Connor arrived in Florida on Friday and he may have been in the company of Mr Nerney and another man, with the group having gone for a walk, when he was killed.

Mr O’Connor’s death prompted an outpouring of grief on social media and in particular in the Irish country and western scene.

Singer Patrick Feeney wrote on his Facebook page: “Today has got to be the most saddest day I ever had. Martin O’Connor played in my band for a couple years and a more nicer guy I have never meet. My heart goes out to his family.”

Singer Mike Denver wrote: “Sad times in entertainment business this weekend. Rest in peace Martin O’Connor.”

A spokesperson for the Department of Foreign Affairs said consular assistance had been offered to the family of the Irishman.

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