The NYPD met with members of the Irish community in Woodlawn, the Bronx, on Thursday to discuss a hit and run accident in which a 26-year-old man from Killeavy, County Armagh, died earlier this week.
Photographs published in the New York tabloids have incensed locals, showing workers from the Medical Examiner’s Office lifting the body of Kevin Bell into a van that also appeared to contain a large clear plastic bag of bottles.
The driver of the van has been suspended without pay.
Mr Bell had returned home on Sunday morning after a night out in Manhattan with friends. Surveillance footage from a nearby deli showed the young man on a poorly lit, busy road not far from his apartment.
Inexplicably, he lay down and was hit by at least one car, which did not stop.
Mr Bell’s flatmate, Benny Doyle (39) had been with him and another friend that evening. “He left early and we came half an hour behind him,” he said. But when he got home, there was no sign of Mr Bell.
“I left the apartment, came down to look for him in the pub and he wasn’t there – I couldn’t find him. I went back up to the apartment and he still wasn’t there. That was at about 4 o’clock and about a half hour later I got a phone call saying that he was dead.”
Deputy inspector Brian M Mullen of the 47th precinct said that police are looking for a grey minivan and a possibly a Nissan Maxima. He described East 233rd Street where Mr Bell died as a bus route, a truck route, and a snow emergency route. “It’s heavily travelled.”
Mr Bell had spent just ten months in New York, and played for the Armagh GAA team. Friends described him as a champion Irish dancer who had danced in the pub on the night of his death.
“There are so many videos of him Irish dancing – in the middle of Grand Central! He would go crazy,” Doyle said. “He was just the type of lad that lived life to the full and there wasn’t a bad bone in his body.”
At the community meeting in the Rambling House bar, local residents expressed distress at way Mr Bell’s body had been treated. “I think it’s outrageous to treat any human being like that,” said Margaret Fogarty. “What happened or what took him out there, nobody knows but him.”