THE FATHER of one of the men killed near Croagh on Tuesday night has revealed that his young son was due to become a father for the second time.
Paul Fitzgerald, whose 23-year-old son Eric was killed in the crash, spoke of his heartache and shock upon learning of his death and having to identify his body in the morgue this Wednesday morning. "He was my right-hand man," said the devastated dad.
Eric had worked alongside his self-employed father in laying tarmacadam for the past six years since he left school.
"He was a very, quiet hardworking boy. He never left my side; never smoked or drank. I didn't even realise he was gone out. He's generally with me day and night and didn't go out as such. God takes the good ones always," he said.
The news has devastated the Fitzgerald family, of which Eric was the third eldest of 12 children. He had been living with his pregnant girlfriend in Ballysimon, with their two and a half year-old daughter and they were expecting their second child early next year.
Mr Fitzgerald said it is a doubly sad time for the family, as Eric was a cousin of Daniel Fitzgerald, the 24-year-old carpenter who was shot dead in the Ballysimon area of Limerick city last December.
He said the family had moved from the city to Ballysimon 13 years ago "for a quiet life".
The Garda Ombudsman Commission has now been called in to investigate the crash outside Croagh which took the lives of two men, while a third man is seriously injured.
The second fatality has been named as 28-year-old Con Fitzharris, with an address in Dublin.
It is believed the two men died when the stolen BMW car in which they were travelling collided with a tree on the main N21 between Croagh and Rathkeale shortly after 9.30pm.
The driver, Andrew Nolan, 30, suffered serious head injuries and was taken to the Mid-Western Regional Hospital in Dooradoyle for treatment. His condition was described as "critical but stable" by a hospital spokesperson this Wednesday.
Gardai would not confirm reports that a replica firearm was found in the vehicle, which remained in the ditch overnight until being removed on Wednesday.
It is understood that the crash occurred after the occupants of the stolen car passed a Garda squad car on the main road, and drove away at speed after the gardai turned to follow them. The BMW collided with the tree a short distance later. Road conditions at the time were described as icy.
The N21 was closed following the crash and diversions were put in place, pending a technical examination of the scene by Garda forensic teams. The road remained closed to commuter traffic on Wednesday morning, but was re-opened shortly after lunch.
Gardai have confirmed that "a number of witnesses to the crash have already come forward", and have requested that anyone with any further information should contact Askeaton Garda Station on 061 601630.
The accident brings to 17 the number of people killed on Limerick roads this year. Nine of those fatalities have taken place in West Limerick, and five have occurred on the main N21.