'A gentle giant': Tributes to man killed in Tralee building collapse

'A gentle giant': Tributes to man killed in Tralee building collapse

Tom Ross, who was killed when a building collapsed in Tralee on Saturday. Picture: Eye Focus 

Warm tributes have been paid to a well-known builder in Tralee, who was killed in a partial building collapse in the town centre. 

Initial reports indicate that Tom Ross, aged 68, was on the ground floor of the three-storey building he had been renovating and was consulting with a colleague when a chimney crashed down internally.

Mr Ross was trapped under the rubble and was pronounced dead a short time later. 

Five other workers on the site were taken to hospital and treated for injuries. 

Mayor of Tralee, Terry O’Brien, has spoken of the shock in the town, saying it was particularly sad in the run-up to Christmas. 

"We are very, very sad here in Tralee," Mr O'Brien said. "We are very shocked at what has happened in the middle of our town." 

Garry O'Donnell, of the well-known Baily's Corner pub, on nearby Castle St, has described the late Mr Ross as "a gentle giant with the heart of a lion".

"I opened up a good bottle of wine at home last night, in memory of Tom Ross," Mr O'Donnell said.

Five other workers on the site were taken to hospital and treated for injuries. 
Five other workers on the site were taken to hospital and treated for injuries. 

Mr Ross had been known for taking on difficult building projects that involved painstaking work on old mortar facades often subject to preservation orders.

"No job was too small for him," Mr O'Donnell  said.

"We would all classify Tom as a huge figure. An air of gloom has descended on Tralee," he said.

Mr Ross was known for looking at the bright side of life, and for encouraging others to do likewise.

"I will miss him terribly. The whole town of Tralee will miss him. He was a gentle giant with the heart of a lion," Mr O'Donnell said. 

Mr Ross was originally from a smallholding in West Cork and had gone to England as a very young man, returning to Ireland and setting up life in Kerry.

Meanwhile, investigations into Saturday's incident are ongoing. The internal collapse happened shortly after 8am on Ashe St. 

Investigations into Saturday's incident are ongoing.
Investigations into Saturday's incident are ongoing.

A number of units of the fire service attended the scene, along with ambulances and gardaí. 

The other injured workers were removed to University Hospital Kerry. Their injuries were non-life-threatening. 

The Health and Safety Authority is conducting an investigation into the matter.

The three-storey building is on one of Tralee's most historic streets, which is also the location of the courthouse and of St John's Church of Ireland church. 

Many of the buildings on the street are architecturally important. Medical, as well as legal, offices are located on Ashe St.

Meanwhile, the street has reopened to traffic and traffic-calming measures are in place. 

Footpath and parking bays immediately outside the scene are still closed off, but pedestrian access is now available.

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