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02/08/2021

WATCH: Emotional scenes as Limerick man returns home for the first time since fire

A LIMERICK pensioner has made an emotional return to his fire-hit home after his neighbours clubbed together to help restore it.

Tommy Slater was devastated in February 2020 when his home in Lynwood Park was destroyed by a blaze caused by an electrical fault. 

The widower, now 83, and his faithful dog Pepper who were both sleeping upstairs, were rescued by neighbours, and though were shaken, he didn’t sustain any serious injuries.

But he moved to live with his son Tommy Jr in Westbury, while his community raised thousands of euro to refit the entire interior of the premises.

And on Thursday night, he made an emotional return, where he was surprised by his friends and neighbours who waited to greet him.

Indeed, it was such a shock that he did not bring his beloved companion Pepper with him – leaving him back at his son’s home for now.

“I didn’t expect this. Jesus Christ, I’m dumbfounded, I’m losing my speech,” he said, while accepting hugs from neighbours.

Upon entering his end-of-terrace home – after cracking open a bottle of champagne – he struggled to hold back tears, after seeing his house which was lovingly restored by neighbours including John Fitzgerald, who carried out the main body of work.

“I’m just overawed by everything,” he added, “When my house burnt down, it was a terrible time for everybody. The one thing I did get from my neighbours was great hugs. The thing about a hug is you feel a lot better. It was like a therapy, and it calms you down.”

“But what they have done here is beyond my best expectations. I’m in awe. I cannot understand how you can develop something from what was there originally. This place was completely gone. It was black as the ace of spades. It was something you didn’t want to see,” added Tommy.

In​ the blaze, Tommy lost pictures of his late wife Gina and her family, his many trophies and a boat that he spent years putting together. While these things can never be replaced, Joan LeFevre went to a lot of effort to find old pictures including from his wedding day to adorn the walls.

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