US drowning victim remembered in Limerick as young man who ‘loved without capacity’

Jess Casey

Reporter:

Jess Casey

The body of Niall Gibbons, pictured below, is removed from Our Lady Help of Christians Church, Milford

The body of Niall Gibbons, pictured below, is removed from Our Lady Help of Christians Church, Milford

THE sister of the young Limerick man who drowned while swimming with friends off the coast of New York has thanked the US authorities for their assistance after her brother disappeared at sea.

Speaking at her brother Niall’s Requiem Mass in Our Lady Help of Christians Church, Milford, Sharon Gibbons thanked the US Coast Guard and members of the Long Beach Police Department for their assistance after her brother went missing while swimming with two friends in Long Island. 

“Their professionalism, efficiency, communication, compassion and warmth has been beyond belief,” Ms Gibbons told his Requiem Mass. 

“They literally moved heaven and earth in their search to find Niall and for that we are eternally grateful.” 

Ms Gibbons also thanked her brother’s friends who first raised the alarm that tragic night. 

“A special word of thanks as well to the Kevin Bell Repatriation Fund who have been instrumental in bringing our boy home.” 

“And of course to our friends and family.” 

The Gibbons family has been overwhelmed by the love and support they have received following her brother’s death, she added. 

“Nature has taken Niall away from us but Niall loved nature.”

“He loved the beach, especially Long Beach, but more than anything, he loved people.”

“He could make you feel like the only person in the room.” 

“We had you for 30 wonderful years; a hundred years wouldn’t have been enough.”

The former Castletroy College student is survived by his parents Marie and Ray, a well known Limerick businessman who previously ran Jetland Furniture. 

In a poignant tribute to her son, his mother Marie, a Bunratty singer, opened funeral proceedings with her rendition of Frank Sinatra’s ‘My Way’ with the lyrics changed to ‘Niall’s Way’.

“The love that Niall shared with our beautiful parents was, and is ultimate,” Sharon said.

“They forever have a bond that will never be broken.” 

Niall possessed a unique gift of being able to connect with everyone he met “and speak the language of the heart”, Father Joe Young told the congregation.

“Short and as tragic as it has been, he lived life to the full,” Father Young told mourners.  

“One of the things Niall’s departure has reminded us of is that this is no everlasting city.” 

“He had a great love for the things that we sometimes take for granted, such as the beauty of nature, the fact of caring for those who are in need, those who may find themselves in an underprivileged situation or for those who find themselves outside of the margins of our society.” 

“And as Marie sang, he did it his way and in his short 30 years, that many of us may think does not mean a lifetime, the world became his oyster.”

“There was no part of the world he would not have lived and there was no one irrespective of their class, colour or distinction that he would not be able to see.” 

“A man who could make eye contact, heart-contact and above all had an incredible love for the animal kingdom.” 

Gifts including a flower to represent Niall’s love of nature and his football boots, a New York Knicks jersey and a Manchester United Shirt to represent his love of sport were placed on his coffin.  

Friends, some of whom had travelled from the United States to attend his Requiem Mass, also placed records by Jay-Z, Kanye West and Nas on his coffin to represent his love of music and art. A private cremation service is due to take place for Niall at a later date.