AN AMERICAN visitor who tragically lost his wife in an accident in Killarney last month has expressed his thanks to the people of the town who rallied to his side. Don Theiler has written to Killarney Gardaí paying tribute to the many locals who supported him.

Mr Theiler told the Gardai and the community: “You were there at the worst moment in my life and helped ease the pain in extraordinary ways, most especially with the selfless help of some wonderful people.”

Mr Theiler and his wife Janet had been on holiday in Ireland and were spending their last day in Killarney before returning to the US when Janet tragically lost her life in a cycling accident in the Gap of Dunloe. “We were concluding our trip and arrived In Killarney on the evening of May 29 with a day to spend in Killarney before departing for the United States early on the morning of the 31st,” said Mr Theiler.

“We decided to rent bikes on the 30th and see the sites on the lakes in Killarney National Park and the Gap of Dunloe. All was going well until Janet rounded an extremely sharp turn on the very narrow road in Dunloe Gap and struck a trailer full of lambs being pulled by a truck. She was killed in the accident.”

What followed was an extraordinary outpouring of kindness and help from everyone he encountered following this tragedy, especially Killarney Gardai, added Mr Theiler. “The police, every one of them, were gentle, thoughtful and considerate in the manner they dealt with my friend Roy and me. As this unfolded, I figured we would have to deal with a bureaucracy which may try to be helpful; but, had a job to do. I expected they would do just enough and a maybe a little bit more to help these Americans deal with this devastating event and get back to the United States. How wrong I was.”

Mr Theiler stated the Gardai “went above and beyond what anybody would reasonably expect in assisting” the family.

“They provided transportation to meet our every need, including a long trip to Cork for the cremation of the body so that we could take it back on the plane with us on Friday, June 2, only three days after the accident,” said Mr Theiler.

“They also took us back up to the site of the accident so that my stepdaughter Jennifer, who came out to help me, could see where her mother had died. They picked us up and dropped us off at the airport and anywhere else we needed to go. At the airport when Jennifer arrived, they provided a separate room where we could meet and grieve. They helped make travel arrangements and helped cancel commitments and flights that had been made previously.

Mr Theiler also thanked others in the community who showed kindness. “Greta Doyle and her husband at the Algret B and B provided rooms for Jennifer and myself as we made arrangements and would not accept any payment,” he said. “I asked the police if there was a quiet pub where my friend Roy and I could get a pint. I couldn’t eat but I did need something to dull the pain and shock. Gavin proprietor of The Speakeasy Bar made sure we had space in a quiet back corner of his establishment where we could have a drink and grieve without being disturbed every night we were in Killarney. Almost needless to say we did not pay for the pints. Gavin came in on Thursday, his night off just to wish us well as we prepared to return to the states the next morning.

“I was finally able to get some food down on Thursday evening and the police arranged for us to eat in a private corner of Bricin Restaurant and Boxty House, one of your fine restaurants downtown. Again when we went to pay for the meal, we were informed that it was on the house. By this time I was so overwhelmed I did not get the name of the manager this restaurant that treated us so well.”

Mr Theiler added: “Michael O’Shea, the director from O’Shea’s Funeral Home, was unfailingly considerate and helpful in many ways. I was very impressed by the manner in which he handled the business end of this difficult process. He helped to make sure that we were able to handle all of the steps needed to allow us to carry my wife’s remains home with us 48 hours after the accident. When it came to billing he handed me a hand written note and told me to pay it when I could. He did not even ask me for any contact information.

“People we did not know placed flowers at the accident site. It touched my heart deeply to see this tribute to a wonderful woman that they did not know.”

Mr Theiler added: “Immediately after the accident, my feelings were that I wanted to get out of Ireland and never return. By the time we got on the plane to make the sad trip back to our home, less than 64 hours after the accident, I looked forward to returning to your wonderful city to thank each of you who so thoughtfully opened yourselves to us in such a selfless and generous way. We would like to visit and celebrate the generosity and thoughtfulness of the people of Killarney, including the individuals mentioned above, and most of all the following police who directly helped us in this dark time in our lives: Brendan O’Donovan, Denis O’Mahony, Chris Manton and Leo Randles.

“Thank you Killarney you will be forever in our hearts. As I told Leo and Brendan on the afternoon before we left, I have never spent a more remarkable two and a half days under the most terrible of circumstances.”

Superintendent Flor Murphy of Killarney Gardaí said he was proud of his members who “went beyond what was expected of them to help in what were very tragic circumstances”.