Tragedy revisits family with second US death

February 17, 2014

A Newry family faces the heartbreaking task of bringing home the body of their loved one from America after a second family member was killed in tragically similar circumstances in just eight months.

Paul Lambert (34) and originally from Courtenay Hill, died on Wednesday after he was struck by a car in San Francisco, where he has been living and working for the charity organisation Kiva.  Tragically, Paul is the second family member to lose his life in such devastating circumstances.  His cousin Kevin Bell was killed in an identical accident in New York in June last year.  Paul and Kevin’s mothers are sisters Noelle and Eithna (née Morgan).

It’s believed Paul was returning home from a night out in the Californian city when he was knocked down by a car, which failed to stop at the scene.  Witnesses to the accident moved to apprehend the driver who was later arrested by an off-duty policeman.  He has since been charged with felony vehicular manslaughter and felony hit-and-run.

The news has stunned the close family circle, still mourning the loss of Kevin whose death last summer had prompted a huge outpouring of grief throughout the entire community and sparked an unprecedented fundraising effort to bring his remains home to his family.

The subsequent Kevin Bell Repatriation Trust, set up in his honour, has raised thousands and his family has continued to use the fund to help other families to repatriate the remains of loved ones from abroad.

Just days before Mr Lambert’s tragic death, the fund had received much deserved public praise for helping to return the bodies of 15 young people to their families in Ireland since Kevin’s death.  Now, in a tragically unforeseen twist, the repatriation fund has been used to return Kevin’s cousin’s body to his grief-stricken family.

Expressing his condolences to Mr Lambert’s parents, sister and wider family circle, SDLP MLA, Dominic Bradley, described the news of his death as “devastating” for his family and friends.

“The family has had a lot to bear over the past few years and have dealt with their grief in an exemplary fashion,” he said.  “The establishment of the Kevin Bell Repatriation Fund after Kevin’s death has already helped fourteen families bring the remains of loved ones home to their families in Ireland.

“On my own behalf and on behalf of the community I would like to express deepest sympathy to Paul’s parents, sister, and wider family circle.”

Sinn Fein’s Mickey Brady echoed those sentiments saying, “This is dreadful news for any family to receive, particularly when they are so far away from the scene of the incident.  Mr Lambert was in San Francisco doing charity work, I have no doubt that he had many talents and a lot to offer.  It is very unfortunate that his life has been cut short in this manner.  I wish to offer any assistance I can to the family at this tragic time,” he added.

Mr Lambert’s remains are expected to arrive back with his family in Newry later today (Monday) with his funeral scheduled to be held on Thursday.