Christchurch earthquake victim buried in Monaghan today

Owen McKenna

THE FUNERAL of one of the two Irish victims of the New Zealand earthquake will take place today.
Owen McKenna, whose remains arrived back in Ireland on Sunday, will be buried in his native Monaghan.
The 41 year old was crushed to death in the February 22 quake while sitting in his car moments after speaking to wife Sarah to tell her he was shopping for a meal he had been due to cook later that evening.
At the time, she was visiting relatives with the couple’s two children, Grace, six, and Tadhg, five.
He had moved to Christchurch to live shortly after marrying Sarah about six years ago.
His mother Theresa and brothers Ciaran and Brendan had travelled to the city more than a week ago to repatriate his body.
It was his ‘express wish’ that he was to be waked and buried in his native Monaghan.
Large crowds in the close- knit Truagh parish visited the family home throughout Sunday evening and Monday to express their sympathies to Eoin’s family.
He will be buried after a 12 noon requiem mass today at the Church of the Sacred Heart in Carrickroe Emyvale, near his family home house at Bracagh.
A marquee has been erected in the church car park for mourners unable to fit into the church, where loud speakers will be erected over the front door.
The service -which will be co-celebrated by a number of priests – will also be streamed live on the internet.

The homily will be read out by Fr John Skinnader, who lives next door to Mr McKenna’s family.
Neither his wife nor his two children will be coming over for the service.
Parish priest Fr Sean Nolan said last night: ‘It was considered that it would be far too traumatic for the two young children.
‘They will all be coming over later but when things are calmer.’
It is not known when Kerry accountant John JJ O’Connor will be buried.
His body was found in the Pyne Gould Corporation building where he had been working in his first-floor offices when the 6.3-magnitude earthquake hit Christchurch.
The news was broken to devastated family, who had mounted a vigil outside the building which had been badly damaged in the February 22 quake.
It is not known if the 40-year-old father-of-one from Abbeydorney will be brought home for a burial.
Mr O’Connor moved to New Zealand late last year after a long stint working in London.
As well as having a two-year-old son, wife Sarah is pregnant with the couple’s second child.
The two Irishmen are among the 166 fatalities officially registered but there are still a further 122 missing people.
The dead include Julie Wong, who had been living in Lisburn in Northern Ireland before she emigrated to New Zealand five years ago.
She had been living there with her husband David and four-year old son Ethan.
Mrs Wong, who was in her mid 30s, had been working in Pyne Gould Corporation building when the quake struck.
In a statement released through the Presbyterian Church, Julie’s father and mother, Robin and Eunice Johnston, paid tribute to her on Saturday.
“In her short life she was a joy and inspiration not just to her family and friends but to everyone who knew her.
“We are so sad that her life has been cut short along with so many others in this tragic way but find strength in our Christian faith that was such a part of Julie’s life too. We know that everything is in God’s hands.”
The couple also encouraged people “to pray for all those linked by this awful earthquake that they would know comfort and healing at this difficult time”.
Her funeral will also be held today, but in New Zealand.

Body of second Irish Christchurch earthquake victim found

THE body of Kerry accountant John JJ O’Connor has been found by crews
searching the ruins of buildings hit by the earthquake in New Zealand
last month.
His body was been found in the Pyne Gould Corporation building where
he had been working in his first-floor offices when the 6.3-magnitude
earthquake hit Christchurch.
The news was broken to devastated family, who had mounted a vigil
outside the building which had been badly damaged in the February 22 (12.51pm local time) quake.
It is not known if the 40-year-old father-of-one from Abbeydorney will
be brought home for a burial or whether a date has been set for his
funeral.
A Department of Foreign Affairs spokesman said last night: ‘We can
confirm that John’s body has been found and identified.
‘We are giving his family every assistance we can at this time.’
Formal confirmation that Mr O’Connor died in the quake brings to two
the number of Irish victims in the disaster.
The first victim to be identified among the dead was Monaghan man, Eoin McKenna.
The 41 year old was crushed to death while sitting in his car in a car
park moment after speaking to his wife Sarah top tell her he was
shopping for a meal he had been due to cook later that evening.
At the time, she was visiting relatives with the couple’s two
children, Grace, six, and Tadhg, five. He had moved to Christchurch to
live shortly after marrying Sarah about six years ago.
His mother Theresa and brothers Ciaran and Brendan are currently in
the city arranging the repatriation of his body.
It was his ‘express wish’ that he was to be buried in his native Monaghan.
His body is expected to arrive back in Ireland on Sunday with a
funeral expected to be around Tuesday.
Mr O’Connor moved to New Zealand late last year after a long stint
working in London.
As well as having a two-year-old son, wife Sarah is pregnant with the
couple’s second child.
The two Irishmen are among the 166 fatalities officially registered
but there are still a further 122 missing people.
The discovery of Mr O’Connor’s body brings to an end the prolongued
anguish the family suffered after there were reports that he was among
a group of people in the PGC building who were alive and talking to
rescuers.
Retired priest, Fr Ned Barrett – who is filling in for the current
parish priest – said last night: ‘This is news to me as I had only
been talking to members of John’s family at mass on Sunday.
‘Then they were still very anxious about finding him as he was still
reported as missing.
‘Our prayers are with his family at this very sad time.’

ends.

Hopes fading for Abbeydorney man trapped building hit by New Zealand earthquake

HOPES for the recovery of an Irish man trapped for hours in a Christchurch office building were fading last night.

The 40-year-old married father of one was reportedly in contact with a search and rescue team searching for victims of the New Zealand earthquake.

The team had been searching the ruins of the Pyne Gould Corporation building in the city centre, where John JJ O’Connor is believed to be an employee.

It is thought that his wife, who has been maintaining a vigil at the PGC building since Tuesday, is pregnant with the couple’s second child.

Mr O’Connor, who already has a son, is believed to have joined Perpetual Wealth Management after a recent move from London.

He is one of ten trapped in the ruins of the building and one of 17 Irish people who were still unaccounted for late yesterday.

Last night his mother, Sheila, was unavailable for comment as she was said to be visiting one of her daughters in London.

A relative at her house just outside the Co. Kerry village of Abbeydorney said the family did not wish to make any comment but that they were ‘anxiously waiting news, as you can imagine’.

Mr O’Connor’s father, Donald, who is believed to have died more than ten years ago, was a well-known farmer in the area.

A neighbour said last night: ‘I’ve only just heard and don’t know what to make of it. But I just hope he is okay and they get him out alive.’

Patrick Middleton, Mr O’Connor’s boss at Perpetual wealth management, said last night: ‘I can confirm that John O’Connor is working for Perpetual.

‘And our understanding is that he is in the building but at this stage, our key focus is on supporting his family.

‘The rescue operation continues on that building, but they are still working on the site and we just have to keep our hopes up.

‘We are holding out for hope as much as we can.’ He added: ‘The emergency services have been great.’

However, a spokeswoman for the New Zealand Fire Service last night played down reports of about survivors in the building.

She said: ‘Reports about a rescue are incorrect. There have been no indications of survivors in Christchurch since Wednesday.’

Elsewhere, the Department of Foreign Affairs say they are not ‘seriously concerned’ about the remaining 16 Irish citizens who have not yet been located.

But the Department’s Peader Carpenter said last night of Mr O’Connor’s situation: ‘We have a name of an Irish person who would be there.

‘The New Zealand crisis centre have told us they will advise us immediately there is official confirmation with regard to one Irish citizen who is supposed reported to be in a building where some people are alive.’

He added: ‘They have been talking to people in that building.

‘(But) we just have no (official) confirmation that he is definitely there or that they have spoken to them or that he is alive.’

Little is known about Mr O’Connor other than the fact that he is believed to have only moved to New Zealand two months ago.

He is said to have been working on the first floor of the PGC building when the quake struck.

He has been reported missing ever since.

Last night, the number of those officially declared dead following the disaster rose to 113.

Meanwhile, Pyne Gould Corporation bosses last night said they have been advised by emergency services that while they continue to search for people at its premises on Cambridge Terrace, Christchurch, the focus has shifted from rescue to recovery mode.

Fourteen people remain unaccounted for and are believed to still be in the building.

PGC chief executive Jeff Greenslade, said: ‘Our thoughts are with our missing colleagues and their families.’

So far, Monaghan-born psychiatric nurse Eoin McKenna is the only officially confirmed Irish fatality from the stricken city hit by Tuesday’s lunchtime 6.3-magnitude earthquake.

The 41 year old was crushed to death while sitting in his car in a car park moment after speaking to his wife Sarah top tell her he was shopping for a meal he had been due to cook later that evening.

At the time, she was visiting relatives with the couple’s two children, Grace, six, and Tadhg, five. He had moved there to live shortly after marrying Sarah about six years ago.

Members of his distraught family are expected to make their way to New Zealand either today or tomorrow, according to a friend of the family, to arrange for his body to be flown back to Ireland.

Earthquake victim rang wife before hit in car.

EARTHQUAKE victim Eoin McKenna had phoned his wife to tell her he was going shopping – just a few minutes before he was killed.

The Monaghan-born psychiatric nurse, who was yesterday named as one of two Irish victims in the New Zealand disaster, had called to let her know he was planning to cook a meal for the family that evening and had gone to buy the ingredients.

He was parked in a multi-storey car park in the city of Christchurch when the 6.3-magnitude earthquake struck just before 1pm.

His wife Sarah had been visiting relatives on neighbouring islands with the couple’s two children Grace, six, and Tadhg, five.

Moments after the call ended, 41-year-old Mr McKenna – who had moved to New Zealand about six years ago – was killed when his car was crushed by falling masonry.

The earthquake tore through the country’s second largest city when it hit at lunchtime on Tuesday, causing buildings to collapse, ripping up roads and sparking a series of fatal fires.

More than 300 people are still unaccounted for – including three Irish nationals – and while the death toll is officially 75, the final figure is expected to be much higher.

There are around 200 Irish nationals living in the city, which was last hit by an earthquake just over five months ago.

All but 50 had been accounted for last night.

Although officials are confident they will be able to locate the bulk of these, they have confirmed that another Irish male had died in the earthquake.

His identity was not being released last night but he is believed to have been from Northern Ireland and – like Mr McKenna – was married to a New Zealand woman.

A Department of Foreign Affairs spokesman said: ‘We are currently working our way through the list of residents we have and we are confident we will be able to reach most of them.

‘We can confirm that two Irishmen have died and we remain seriously concerned about the welfare of two Irish people.

‘It is still too early to say anything about where in Ireland they are from. ‘The situation could change overnight.’

Although rescue workers were working round the clock last night under hastily erected floodlights, hopes of finding any more survivors were fading fast.

There are, for example, believed to be at least 100 bodies in the city’s Canterbury at least 100 bodies in the city’s Canterbury TV building, from where a number of people had been rescued yesterday by teams frantically searching through the ruins.

Rescuers included Donegal builder Patrick McGowen, who told the Mail on Tuesday of his efforts to save a woman trapped in the rubble.

The news of Mr McKenna’s death had confirmed the family’s worst fears. As events unfolded, they had anxiously awaited any information they could glean from TV and radio news, Department of Foreign Affairs officials and his distraught wife.

But last night, Mr McKenna’s siblings were gathered at his mother Teresa’s countryside bungalow in Truagh, near Emyvale village in north Co. Monaghan.

Fr Sean Nolan, parish priest and a friend of the family, said last night: ‘Teresa says that Sarah spoke to him on the phone a short time before the earthquake hit and he told her that he was planning to do the shopping so he would have food for them in the house when they got back home.

‘Then, when Sarah heard the news later she immediately grew concerned for his safety and had to try and travel back to Christchurch with the children.’

Not being able to reach him on his mobile phone, she feared the worst. His body is believed to have been recovered late Tuesday night but the family did not receive official confirmation of his death until yesterday morning.

Mr McKenna is survived by Bernadette, Maria, Kieran, Enda, Angela, Brendan and Catherine.

His father Michael – who was also a psychiatric nurse – died of cancer in 1995. Fr Nolan said: ‘Teresa has great spiritual strength, which she is drawing on at this very difficult time.

All his brothers and sisters are rallying around her now.

They’re obviously devastated as are the people of the community of Truagh.’

Mr McKenna was involved in his local GAA club as a youngster playing in under-18 and under-21 championships.

Truagh GAA club chairman Raymond Treanor told the Mail: ‘It’s such a tragedy to happen to such a nice family.

I went to school with Eoin, I was maybe ten years ahead of him and he was always a very active, bright, nice guy.

I last met him at a seniors match he attended when he was home about two summers ago, and he was very content in New Zealand and raising his young family over there.’

Mr McKenna had left Ireland initially to train and work at Guy’s Hospital in London.

Then he accepted a post in Saudi Arabia where he met Sarah Lothian, who is also a psychiatric nurse.

The couple are believed to have married there before moving to her native New Zealand to set up home.

He was last back in Co. Monaghan with his wife and children just under two years ago.

A family friend said last night: ‘They are a very close-knit family and he is the only one who is abroad.

They all did their best to stay in regular touch.

It wasn’t always easy because of the distance.’

Such was his love of his native county, however, that he is understood to have written into his will his desire to be buried in Monaghan.

A family friend added that as a result, mother Teresa and some of his siblings will be flying to New Zealand to bring his body home.

Meanwhile, a Meath woman has told how she had just left Christchurch Cathedral shortly before it collapsed in the earthquake.

Anne Jennings, 31, from Dunboyne, had only arrived in the city on Monday. ‘We were about to go into the Canterbury museum when it happened. We didn’t know what was going on.

‘The ground literally just shook.

I could see a bench which I thought I could hang on to. But you couldn’t move because the ground was moving so much.

I got to the bench and crouched down and there was a man beside me. I felt secure knowing he was there.

‘It was over quite quick and we were lucky we were outside in the Botanic Gardens because a half an hour earlier we would have been in the cathedral.

‘We were advised to walk the long way around to our hostels as the city was closed off.

We managed to get our bags and just leave.’