Dream Ireland vacation turns tragic as horse-drawn carriage plunges into ravine

Published in: Washington Post

By Amanda Erickson

It was supposed to be a magical trip, an opportunity for Rosalyn Joy Few, 64, and Normand Larose, 62, both Americans, to celebrate their heritage.

The Arizona couple were traveling with Few’s daughter and grandchildren in Ireland. Like most visitors, they set out to see the country’s highlights, such as the Gap of Dunloe, a stunning mountain pass popular with tourists. On Monday, the family gathered at Kate Kearney’s cottage, a cozy bar and restaurant, then set off in a pair of horse-drawn carriages.

Two miles later, tragedy struck.

According to the Irish Times, the horse pulling Few and Larose’s carriage either startled or slipped, and then they all went tumbling 12 feet down into a steep ravine. Few’s daughter and grandchildren came upon the gruesome scene just minutes later. “They are absolutely distraught as you can imagine,” a witness told the Irish Independent.

Another witness, Stewart Ainsley, told the Irish Mirror that he saw the whole thing.

“It was so so terrible,” he said. “I climbed down and helped lift the cart off the man and woman. ... The horse was pulling on the cart that was on top of them, so we had to get the horse away from it and then lift the trap off.”

Emergency workers and experienced climbers from the Kerry Mountain Rescue team scrambled down the steep terrain to help, too. The couple were pronounced dead at the scene and transferred to a hospital. The horse was severely injured by the fall and was put down.

The cart’s driver, who was experienced, according to the Independent, managed to escape the cart as it began to slip. He is in good condition but “very distressed.”

The Garda, the Irish police force, has launched an investigation into the incident. “We don't know what happened,” Paul O'Neill, president of the Killarney Chamber of Tourism and Commerce, told the Irish Times. “All we can do is support this family in any way we can.” The horse-and-carriage drivers did not work Tuesday as a sign of respect for the family.

The mayor of Killarney also expressed his condolences. “The tragic accident has caused great shock and upset throughout the entire community,” Niall Kelleher told the Irish Independent. “The Gap of Dunloe is one of the most naturally beautiful places in the entire country, but there is a dark cloud overhead this evening as everyone comes to terms with what happened.”