Northern Ireland

‘I knew that life would not be the same again’ - Co Armagh man who lost wife and two friends in crash praises his children’s bravery

All-Ireland winner and surgeon Kevin McElvanna’s wife Ciara and friends Patrick and Ciera Grimley were killed in a crash in November

 Ciara and Kevin McElvanna
Kevin McElvanna has spoken about the tragic loss of his wife Ciara and neighbours Patrick and Ciera Grimley.

A Co Armagh man who lost his wife and two friends in a car crash has praised his children for their bravery and support since the tragedy.

A former All-Ireland winning gaelic footballer, Kevin McElvanna’s wife and mother of their four children, Ciara (44), died from her injuries after a four-vehicle crash in Markethill in November.

They had been traveling home from Dundalk to Madden in a taxi from the surprise 40th birthday of their friend Patrick Grimley, who also died along with his wife Ciera.

Over £400,000 has since been raised for the Grimleys’ three children, while in May family and friends of Mrs McElvanna raised over £22,400 in her memory at Belfast City Marathon.

In a candid interview with the BBC’s GAA social podcast, Mr McElvanna spoke about the night his life changed forever.

“I fractured my neck, several fractures in my lower back and…my left kneecap was smashed,” he said.

“I do have vivid memories of what happened and the aftermath, the whole hospital journey and in the weeks afterwards as well.

“I knew straight away from Ciara’s point of view that she sustained a significant injury, I knew that life would not be the same again, and in my heart of hearts I did know that was it for us as a family.”

He said his medical training had steadied his nerves “in the midst of what was essentially chaos”.

“It was a frightening scenario I have to say but I was able to maintain my composure and hold Ciara until we were cut out by the fire service from the wreckage,” he said.

“When we were separated, obviously my mind was still with Ciara, but I knew she was in good hands.”

His wife was kept alive in hospital by a ventilator for four days, but he said a serious brain injury was “ultimately incompatible” with life.

While keeping in touch with his children by video calls, he had to deliver the devastating news their mother had died in person.

“I needed to do that face to face,” he said.

In November Kevin McElvanna lost his friends Patrick & Ciera Grimley in a car accident. He also lost his wife Ciara. An...

Posted by Thomas Niblock on Tuesday, June 4, 2024

While his job often involved doing the same for the loved ones of patients, he said nothing could have prepared him to tell his children, aged seven to 14, their mother wasn’t coming home.

“That was probably the most difficult thing amongst everything,” he said.

“It’s difficult to see your children in pain in any scenario whether on the football pitch or whatever.

“But to bring their worlds crashing down amongst them was a very difficult thing to do.”

Amazed by their bravery, he added: “I have to say I’m so proud of them in how they reacted. Obviously they were devastated, but almost immediately and this is typical of the amount of Ciara that’s in them, they rallied around each other and me and put their arms around each other and said ‘we’ll get through this.’

“That’s a remarkable thing for children…I’m so proud of them, they’re amazing kids.

“They got me through that and they continue to look after me in the aftermath of it.

“They’re beyond their years in how they were able to take that enormous emotional load and burden upon themselves and shine, just as Ciara would have done.”

Mr McElvanna said he only agreed to the podcast to pay tribute to his late wife and to thank his family and wider community for the way he and his children were “wrapped up” in support.

During the interview, he also shared how on the morning of the tragedy he had been running while listening to a podcast where an interviewee had spoken about losing a daughter.

“I was running, I was thinking, I have the perfect life,” he said.

“I’ve everything I’ve ever wanted and how would I deal with that, if that, or something similar were to happen to me?

“It was painful to put yourself in that situation, to envisage it happening to someone belonging to you, and within 24 hours it had.”

Patrick and Ciera Grimley with their three children
Patrick and Ciera Grimley with their three children