Tributes to Kurdish couple and eight-month-old baby killed in Galway crash

Karzan Sabah Ahmed, Shahen Qasm and baby Lina died when car on wrong side of road hit them

Karzan Sabah Ahmed with Shahen Qasm and their daughter Lena, who were killed in a crash on the M6 outside Ballinasloe, Co. Galway last week. Photograph: Kurdish Irish Society

Karzan Sabah Ahmed with Shahen Qasm and their daughter Lena, who were killed in a crash on the M6 outside Ballinasloe, Co. Galway last week. Photograph: Kurdish Irish Society

 

The couple and child who died in a collision on the M6 motorway in Galway last week have been named as Karzan Sabah Ahmed, Shahen Qasm and their eight-month-old daughter, Lina.

The Kurdish family died after motorist Jonasz Lach entered the motorway on the wrong side and crashed head-on into the their car. All four were pronounced dead at the scene.

Mr Ahmed (36) was originally from Erbil in the Kurdistan region of northern Iraq. He studied agriculture at university and moved to Plymouth, England in 2011 to study for a Masters before moving on in 2017 to complete his PhD in agriculture at NUI Galway.

He had recently been offered a job as a lecturer in Carlow and was driving back from the town on the day of the collision after viewing a house the family were hoping to rent.

“He was a real family man and adored his wife Shahen and their little baby Lina,” the founders of Kurdish Irish Society in Dublin Zhyan Sharif and Philip Phelan said. “They loved Galway and all of its inhabitants, and the amount of messages on social media is a tribute to this.”

‘Great connection’

They added: “Karzan had a great connection with the Kurdish families in the Galway area and maintained his passion for being Kurdish. He was trilingual and he spoke Kurdish, English and Arabic, he also had a love for reading and music and to travel.”

Ms Qasm (31), who was also from Erbil, was a qualified engineer and moved to Ireland in 2017 with her husband.

Ms Sharif and Mr Phelan said the repatriation of the family’s remains to Erbil was “being dealt with at the moment”.

Hiwa Wahab, founder of the Kurdish Art Nergz Group, said the Irish Kurdish community was “devastated” by the news of the family’s deaths.

“Everyone is so sad, especially because there was a woman and child involved too,” said Mr Wahab, who runs the group representing more than 4,000 Kurds living around Ireland. “Everyone I talk to is devastated, it feels like a funeral in every house.”

The Kurdish Art Nergz group held a small memorial for the family at the site of the collision on Saturday, with between 30 and 40 people laying flowers by the side of the road.

PhD thesis

NUI Galway also paid tribute to the family, describing Mr Ahmed as “a highly regarded researcher”. He had submitted his PhD thesis in recent weeks 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”, it said in a statement.

Thursday night’s crash, which also involved a third vehicle, occurred at about 7.40pm on the M6 motorway at Poolboy, Ballinasloe. The driver of the third car involved was travelling alone and was treated in hospital for non life-threatening injuries. Such was the impact of the two vehicles crashing head-on that gardaí believe debris from those cars shot over the scene and caused the driver of the third vehicle to crash.

The investigation into the circumstances that led to the collison is ongoing and anyone who witnessed the incident is asked to contact gardaí.

Meanwhile, members of the Polish community in east Galway said they had been left “numb” by Thursday night’s tragedy.

Shocking

Mr Lach, who moved to Ireland around 15 years ago, was the sole occupant of a car that was travelling down the wrong side of the motorway. The married father of two lived in Ballinasloe for a number of years before moving to Portumna about six years ago.

“It still feels so shocking, I’m finding it really difficult to think of the words to describe what I’m feeling,” said one member of Ballinasloe’s Polish community on Sunday. “Any time I had an interacted with him, he was a good guy. I never had trouble or a problem with him.”

Another said: “I knew the guy well...and it’s tragic to think he is gone and what happened to him.”

A Polish resident of Portumna said Mr Lach “worked in a shop here in town, and was well-liked. He owned a fishing boat and would be out on the river regularly, catching fish.”

Minister of State Anne Rabbitte, a Portumna native and Fianna Fáil TD for Galway East, said the town had been “numbed” by the tragedy.

“I’ve been speaking to the local GP, the local gardaí and everyone has been saddened by what’s happened, and I will be making contact with [Mr Lach’s] wife to offer any practical support to help them through this time,” she said.