Briege Mines mourns the loss of eldest son Stephen just weeks after he got all clear from cancer
THE heartbroken mother of a young man killed in a fire at a Dundalk oil depot just before Christmas as described his death as "not fair".
Stephen Mines (24) had been working at Castle Oils at Castleroche, just outside Dundalk, two weeks ago when fuel went on fire causing a major explosion. The Crossmaglen man was killed in the tragic accident, just weeks after he had been given the all-clear from cancer having undergone chemotherapy last year.
His mum Briege said this week: "He got the all-clear four weeks before he was killed. It's just not fair.
"It was like a dream come true to get the all-clear. He had stared death in the face and then - bang."
The fire happened at a shed in the factory shortly before 7am on Friday December 17 with up to 40 fire officers from Dundalk, Drogheda, Dunleer, Ardee and Crossmaglen attending the blaze, which destroyed three oil tankers and left much of Dundalk town engulfed in smoke for a short period.
Garda say that they are not treating the fire as suspicious. However, the cause of the blaze is being investigated by agencies including the Health and Safety Authority.
Briege said she was still in the dark about what happened at the scene.
"I don't know anything about what happened. I don't know what happened or what took place. I don't think anybody knows yet.
"We had planned a big Christmas together because last year he was in Australia for Christmas. His dad and I couldn't wait for Christmas after him getting the all-clear and everything.
"He was disagnosed with cancer on March 15 last year. It was Hodgkin's disease. Stephen had it in his lung and his spleen and had to go through chemotherapy. He fought the whole way and didn't let anything get him down."
Stephen's battle proved successful and in late November he got the all clear from doctors. Mum of six Briege was overjoyed by her eldest son's good news but she said this turned into utter devastation when she was informed of his tragic passing just weeks later.
"When I heard I didn't want to believe it. I actually didn't believe it until I had his ring in my hand. His daddy rang me to tell me and I actually rang Stephen's mobile.
"I don't know what to feel about what happened. Each time I look at his photograph I don't know what to think. I wish he would come through the door and it was all a bad dream.
"His brothers and sisters took the news very bad. The youngest is seven. He would always stop in the shop and he would always have brought them home sweets. He was jolly and he was always there to help you. He was there for his friends and there for us.
"He was my oldest son, my pride and joy," she said.
Briege said Stephen lived for his friends and paid tribute to them for their support following the tragedy.
"I just want to thank all his friends and all our good friends. I want to thank them for everything. His friends are just totally devastated. I have never seen so many grown men cry in my whole life.
"He was a very popular lad," she said.
l Local ambulance services attend the scene of the blaze during which Stephen Mines died just before Christmas