'I just knew': widow of man killed in Storm Ophelia seeks law change

Pamela Goss says non-emergency staff should stay home during status red events

Fintan Goss (33) was five minutes from his home in Ravensdale, Co Louth when a tree fell on his car and killed him during Storm Ophelia on October 16th.

Fintan Goss (33) was five minutes from his home in Ravensdale, Co Louth when a tree fell on his car and killed him during Storm Ophelia on October 16th.

 

The widow of a man killed while driving home during Storm Ophelia believes he would be alive if only emergency vehicles were permitted on the roads during a status red weather alert.

Pamela Goss called for clear guidelines to be brought in so that the next time there is such a weather event workers know to “stay at home.”

Her husband Fintan Goss (33) was five minutes from their home in Ravensdale, Co Louth when a tree fell on his car on October 16th. He was one of three people killed during the storm.

Ms Goss had sent his wife a text message when leaving his finance job at Sumitomo Mitsui Trust Group in Dundalk. When he was not home 15 minutes later, she feared something had happened.

As she waited, Ms Goss checked Facebook and saw a notice about a tree being down and access to the Newry Road at Ravensdale being closed, which gave her a “sick, sick feeling”.

“Then I rang him and his phone was off. It is never off; it always goes to the message minder or else he’d have it on silent for work and it wouldn’t answer, so I just knew,” Ms Goss said.

It soon emerged that a tree had fallen onto Fintan’s car killing him. The tree had to be cut away and the family knew he had died before gardaí were in a position to formally tell them.

“I was getting text messages of condolences before I had even heard officially,” Ms Goss said.

The couple - who have two young children - received a text message the previous evening to say their daughter Laragh’s playschool was closed because of the storm.

“I said to him is there anyway that you won’t have to go to work tomorrow? He was checking the phone but he said ‘no, I haven’t heard anything so I assume I go in.’”

‘Don’t want to be here’

After waking up and feeding their children and making a packed lunch, Mr Goss left for work that morning. Ms Goss said she spoke to him a few times during the day and that at one point “he said ‘Pam I don’t want to be here. What we are told is to get the work done and then go.’”

Ms Goss has written to her local Oireachtas members saying a set of binding rules about working through weather events would “remove the confusion for employers about whether staff need to come into work, or go home from work, during the height of the storm.”

“The reason why I wrote this letter to the TDs in Louth to bring up with the powers that be, is to ensure there is no ambiguity and there is no hierarchy of people,” she said.

“I mean there was a blanket closure on all of the schools so that meant that from the caretaker to the principal, nobody was in danger and nobody had to travel but there was this utter confusion and ambiguity around staff and different levels of staff and who should go and who should not go.”

In such instances the roads should only be open for “the paramedics, the fire services and whatever else that needs to be.

“Unlike them, other industries are not life and death and that is what I would like to see — that everybody is treated the same, that there is no hierarchy and that it is clear, clear for everybody.”