Kevin Bell Repatriation Trust helped almost 100 families in 2016

The trust assisted in the repatriation of the body of Sister Clare Crockett, who was killed in an earthquake in Ecuador in April. Picture by Home of the Mother Order/Press Association
John Monaghan

A CO Down-based charity which helps to repatriate the bodies of Irish people who die abroad has assisted almost 100 families in 2016.

Colin Bell, the founder of the Kevin Bell Repatriation Trust, said the charity has helped out in 98 cases this year.

It represents an increase of a quarter on last year, when the trust helped around 80 families.

Colin Bell and his family set up the trust in memory of his 26-year-old son Kevin, who died in a suspected hit-and-run in New York in 2013.

There was particular involvement by the trust in Australia last year, when a number of young Irish people died in the country, including ten in less than a week in November.

However, this year has seen the trust assist bereaved families across a wider range of nations, in particular in South America.

Mr Bell said: "I don't think Australia was quite as bad as last year. Spain, England, Canada and the US would be the most common.

"We have had countries that you wouldn't have heard of before, because our name is out there now."

Amongst the cases in which Mr Bell and his team were on hand to assist included the death of Sister Clare Crockett, the nun from Derry who was killed in an earthquake in Ecuador in April.

He said: "We have seen more cases in South America, including Argentina and Uruguay. The most difficult was Sister Clare because the country was in turmoil after the earthquake."

Although it was not directly involved in helping the Northern Ireland fan who died during the European Championships in France, the trust was the recipient of donations from friends and relatives of Darren Rodgers.

The 24-year-old Ballymena man died when he fell from a promenade onto a rocky beach in Nice, hours after Northern Ireland played their opening game of the tournament against Poland.

Mr Bell said: "Darren Rodgers' family had received donations for our charity from mourners. His football team, Braid United, fundraised for us as well."

In September, the trust moved into new offices in Newry, having previously operated out of Mr Bell's family home, also in Newry.

The new offices are located in Rooney's Meadow at Whitegates Community Business Park.

Mr Bell said he was "delighted" with the move, which has helped the family find a greater balance between their work with the trust and home life.

He said: "It is out of the house now. We were living with it 24/7. Now we can do whatever needs to be done and then go home and park it and have a normal life."

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