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Tributes pour in for ‘character’ bus driver Michael Gill (55) who died after Westmeath crash

gg© Colin Keegan

The bus which crashed on Wednesday in Moate, Co Westmeath, is towed from the scene yesterday morning. Photo: Colin Keegan/Collins© Colin Keegan

Eoghan Moloney and Liam

The bus driver who died after the bus he was driving crashed on Wednesday evening has been described as “a brilliant character” who would “light up the place”.

Michael Gill (55) from Keenagh, Co Longford, died after the bus left the road between Athlone and Moate around 5.30pm.

There were around 20 passengers on the bus at the time although none sustained serious injuries. Some were assessed on site while others were taken to hospital for non life-threatening injuries.

The Bus Éireann driver was rushed to Midlands Regional Hospital, Tullamore, Co Offaly, where he died later that night.

Longford Fine Gael councillor Colm Murray said Michael was a “brilliant character and very well respected in Keenagh”.

“I knew Michael very well, he was at my parents’ wedding. He was a former treasurer of Keenagh GAA and won a number of Under 21 titles with the club back in the day.

“He was the type of character that would light up the place and he was very well known on the darts circuit, too

“He was the type that if he was driving a bus and someone got on in bad form, he was the type to brighten their day once he met them.

“We can’t get over it, the whole community is in a shock,” Cllr Murray said.

Rev Tom Barden, parish priest in Keenagh, said Mr Gill was “a lovely man who was very well liked in the community”.

“It’s a very big shock to us all. He was only 55 – you would think he had a lot more life to live.

“There were a lot of relatively young children there, this is just a huge tragedy. Everybody is traumatised and shocked by it.

“Michael was a quiet sort of man but he was very well liked and he was a hard worker,” said Rev Barden.

Mr Gill had driven buses for years with local company Farrelly’s Coaches before joining the Athlone Depot with Bus Éireann last year.

“This is a fierce blow to the family and the wider Keenagh community,” Rev Barden added.

Stephen Kent, CEO of Bus Éireann, said Mr Gill’s death was “a very sad event, affecting everyone in Bus Éireann”.

“Our thoughts and deepest sympathies are with the family and friends of our colleague who received the worst possible news last night,” added Mr Kent.

His former boss, Liam Farrelly, told of how he even tried to lure him back into the fold as recently as last week.

"I only rang him last Monday to see how he was getting on and if he wanted to come back," said Mr Farrelly.

"Michael was just a lovely gentleman, a quiet man, inoffensive and even tempered. And because he was such a capable driver, he was never stressed and the passengers loved him.

"He was 16 years with us and the first driving job he had was with us. He was a great driver, he even drove double deckers for us and went all over the country and on tours to England for us."

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