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devastated Family of M6 horror crash victims only heard about tragedy via online news reports

Relatives ‘speechless with grief’ after news was confirmed

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Bright future: Shahen Qasm and husband Karzan Sabah with daughter Lena. Shahen was a qualified engineer, while Karzan had just finished a PhD in NUIG

Bright future: Shahen Qasm and husband Karzan Sabah with daughter Lena. Shahen was a qualified engineer, while Karzan had just finished a PhD in NUIG

Bright future: Shahen Qasm and husband Karzan Sabah with daughter Lena. Shahen was a qualified engineer, while Karzan had just finished a PhD in NUIG

Tributes have been paid to the "kind, polite and friendly" Kurdish family who lost their lives in a horrific collision on the M6 motorway in Galway last Thursday.

Karzan Sabah (36), his wife, Shahen Qasm (31), and their baby Lena (eight months) were killed when Jonasz Lach (42) drove his Volkswagen Touran at speeds of up to 120km on the wrong side of the motorway and crashed head-on into their car.

It has emerged the Polish national, who had been living in Portumna, Co Galway for many years, had serious mental health issues and was before the courts on dangerous driving charges.

The Irish Independent can reveal that a brother of Mr Sabah read about the tragedy online the day after the collision and grew increasingly alarmed after he failed to make contact with his brother and sister-in-law.

Hours after he reached out to a Kurdish community group on Facebook on Friday afternoon, their worst fears were confirmed.

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Jonasz Adam Lach whose people carrier ploughed into a family car head on

Jonasz Adam Lach whose people carrier ploughed into a family car head on

Jonasz Adam Lach whose people carrier ploughed into a family car head on

Hiwa Wahab, the founder of the Kurdish Art Nergz Group, said the Irish Kurdish community was "devastated" by the scale and horror of the crash.

"It's so sad. It's very hard to accept.

"He was such a kind gentleman, and his child and his wife, the whole family, are gone. It is so terrible.

"We just don't understand how this person made this decision to go the wrong way and create this tragedy.

"This young family had a huge, bright future to establish. They had a beautiful life in Ireland, and look what has happened to them.

"And their family are going through so many difficulties.

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"I spoke to the father, the brother and his sister every day, and they don't know what to say. They are speechless with grief, they can’t talk. It is very hard to understand what is happening.

"They are relying on us to give them information, and we are being very sensitive, but we can't explain this either.

"They are hoping the bodies will be returned to them in Kurdistan, Iraq as soon as possible.

"We are an art group, and we're supposed to organise Kurdish cultural events in Ireland, but since Covid, we have become like a community group.

"We had to publish translated news. So our role has completely changed.

"It's so strange. I covered the news about the tragedy on Friday morning, and at 1pm, I got a text message from the brother of Karzan from Iraq.

"He sent me a link and asked me did I know anything about it,” Mr Wahab said.

"He said they didn't know and hoped they were wrong, but their brother, his wife and child were missing for the last 20 hours.

They said they were very worried and asked could we please find out who the people who had died were, as their brother lives hear Galway.

"So I had to call the hospital, the gardaí – everyone – to find out if it was true or not.

"And then three hours later, it was confirmed."

Members of the Kurdish-Irish community have spoken of their sorrow and paid tribute to the family which has lived in the Riverside area of Galway city since 2017.

Karzan Sabah had recently completed a PhD in NUIG and had accepted a lecturing post in Carlow IT.

They were returning from Carlow, having travelled there to secure accommodation ahead of their move there in coming weeks.

Mr Sabah grew up under the Saddam Hussein regime in the city of Erbil in the Kurdistan region of Iraq. He emigrated to Plymouth in 2011.

He studied agriculture in university and went on to earn a Masters degree in the UK before he and his wife moved to Galway in 2017.

Shahen Qasm was a qualified engineer who also grew up in Kurdistan capital, Erbil.

In a statement to the Irish Independent, the founders of the Kurdish Irish Society, Philip Phelan and Zhyan Sharif described Mr Sabah as a "real family man who adored his wife Shahen and their little baby, Lena”.

"They loved Galway and all of its inhabitants, and the amount of messages on social media is a flowing tribute to this," the statement read.

The couple was known as friendly, sociable and "well-liked in the community for their politeness”.

There were described as people who always had a kind word for others.

Colleagues of Mr Sabah in NUI Galway also paid tribute to the "highly regarded researcher".

"NUI Galway extends its deepest sympathy to the family and friends of postdoc researcher Karzan Sabah Ahmed, his wife Shahen and their young child Lena.

"Our thoughts are with all of those who knew Karzan and his family, both here in Ireland and overseas.

"Karzan was a highly regarded researcher, and in recent weeks he had submitted his PhD thesis and started postdoc research work, with all of the hopes and ambitions of a young academic charting a career path and life for himself and his young family.

"The community of NUI Galway is deeply saddened by such an untimely loss in such tragic circumstances."

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