Irish engineer shot dead during ambush in Nigeria

Sat, Aug 25, 2012, 01:00

AN IRISH engineer has been shot dead after he was ambushed in southeastern Nigeria. His driver was seriously injured in the attack, which took place near the Cameroon border on Thursday afternoon.

A native of Westport, Co Mayo, Robert Gray (45) had worked for a number of years in Nigeria.

He was involved in road construction projects with Irish engineering company PW Group when the shooting occurred between 2pm and 3pm on Thursday.

It is understood that Mr Gray was working in southeastern Nigeria, near the border with Cameroon, when he was attacked.

Sources close to the family said the precise details are still not clear but that he may have been travelling between different PW Group projects.

When contacted yesterday a company spokeswoman declined to comment on Mr Gray’s death.

Founded in 1948 by Hugo V Flinn, PW is now an international company with an Irish office in Kilcoole, Co Wicklow.

According to its website, the company also has offices in Nigeria and Ghana.

PW operates on two continents and in several sectors including civil engineering, gold and bauxite mining and the oil and gas industry.

It has more than 30 projects in Africa, the majority of which are in Nigeria. They are valued at over $680 million.

Mr Gray, from a well-known Westport family, travelled home regularly and returned for his twin daughters’ Confirmation earlier this year.

The girls were due to start first year at the local Sacred Heart secondary school next Monday.

Mr Gray’s widow Jeanette Kearns is also a native of Westport and works as a nurse in the MacBride nursing home.

Westport priest Fr Karl Burns said that he had visited the family after they received the news late on Thursday night.

“This is an awful tragedy for the family, who are reeling from the shocking news.

“It is a very sensitive time and they need privacy and our prayers,” Fr Burns said.

Local TD and Minister of State for Tourism Michael Ring said: “I knew Robert’s family very well and this is just a terrible tragedy. He was a young man and now has left a wife and children behind him.”

Fianna Fáil town councillor Brendan Mulroy grew up beside Mr Gray on Horkans Hill, Westport.

“The whole area is just devastated by the news. We all knew Robert very well. “

A Department of Foreign Affairs spokesman said the department was aware of the death and was providing consular assistance to the family.

A family friend said the body was expected to be repatriated early next week.