The two drivers who died in the fatal road smash which claimed three lives in west Limerick on Thursday evening were both retired nurses, it has emerged.
One was Mary Noonan, a single woman who was a sister of former Finance Minister Michael Noonan. Ms Noonan lived near the old Noonan family home at Mount Trenchard, Foynes which is about three miles from where the accident occurred.
The driver of the other car was Meabh Bradley (77), who lived at Ballydoole Kildimo Co Limerick. She worked abroad for many years as a nurse and was a member of a well known farming family, the Kennedys.
The third woman to die in the horror crash was Mary Costello (73) of Ballinacragga House, Foynes. Her husband, Tom, who was a well known farmer died after a long illness, six weeks ago.
Their children had travelled from abroad for Tom’s funeral and were last night preparing to make another sad journey back to Ireland.
One of her sons, Daniel, is a well-known medical consultant in Cork and another son, Barry, is a geologist based in Sardinia.
She is also survived by three daughters, Karen who lives in Dublin, Sarah who is in Abu Dhabi and Emma who is in Sydney.
Pat Hartney, a friend of the family, said: “The whole community is just totally bewildered by what has happened. All three women who died and the fourth woman who was badly injured come from this area along the Shannon Estuary.
“Tom Costello only died at Easter. He had been receiving treatment for a while at Milford Hospice in Limerick. Their family all did very well and had travelled home to be at their father’s bedside when he died. Now they will be coming back to mourn their mother Mary.”
Mary Noonan (78), a nurse at the regional maternity hospital in Limerick before she took up a duty as the nurse on-site at the huge Aughinish Alumina plant on Aughinish Island.
She lived in a house she had built near her old family home at Mount Trenchard.
A friend who did not wish to be named said: “Mary was always a great supporter of her brother Michael and encouraged him from the very start of his political career when he entered Limerick County Council in 1974. She was a great person out on the canvas and had a great way about her.
“Because of her nursing in the maternity hospital and laterally at Aughinish she knew a huge number of people throughout West Limerick.
During his political career she was an invaluable help to Michael and we are all devastated at this tragedy.
The only woman to survive the accident is Mary Griffin (70) from South Cappa Foynes who was travelling with Mary Noonan and Mary Costello. She survived the impact as she was seated in the back of Ms Noonan’s car. She received serious leg and lower chest injuries and was airlifted to University Hospital Limerick by the Shannon Air Sea rescue helicopter which was tasked to the scene.
Her husband John and family members were at her bedside today.
Mrs Bradley, the driver of the second car, worked as a nurse for many years in the Middle East where she lived with her husband Dennis.
Cllr Emmett O’Brien, recently elected to Limerick City and County Council, said: “I only canvassed their house a few weeks ago during the election campaign. She had returned some years ago having worked abroad.
“She was one of the Kennedy family who are very well known and respected farming people in the Kildimo area. All the community is just totally devastated at the scale of this awful accident.”
Gardaí were still completing their investigation at the location of the accident today which was about 200m west of Loughill village on the road leading to Glin.
There is a layby at that location which is a popular stopping place for motorists wishing to take a break driving on the N69 enroute to Kerry.