Mother and daughter to be buried this afternoon
The tight-knit community of Knockmore is struggling to come to terms this week with the tragic deaths of a mother and daughter in a freak car accident last Friday.
The funeral Mass for Sandra Herbert (39) and her 13-year-old daughter Rachel takes place today (Tuesday). The Herberts lost their lives when the car Sandra was driving lost control and left the road at Rathbaun on the Rathduff to Corroy road outside Ballina sometime between 8.30pm and 9pm. The car was found in a ditch, upside down in around three foot of water.
Gardaí have yet to establish whether the car hit black ice, but they have confirmed that black ice was present on parts of that road.
Sandra was driving Rachel and three of Rachel’s friends to a youth disco in Ardagh. Rachel was a front-seat passenger in the Toyota Avensis. Her three friends, two aged 14 and one aged 13, escaped from the back of the car and raised the alarm. A close relative of the Herberts said it was ‘amazing’ that they escaped.
A group of locals rushed to the scene to help but despite their best efforts, they couldn’t rescue Sandra and Rachel in time and both mother and daughter were pronounced dead at the scene. Tragically, the mother and daughter had drowned.
Local councillor Seamus Weir is a family friend of the Herberts, and he visited the Herbert home in Barnfield, Knockmore, on Saturday morning. Sandra’s husband James and the couple’s two other children, Daryl (20), a former Mayo Minor GAA player, and Ryan (10) were there, being consoled by family and friends.
“I was down at the house with the family on Saturday morning and they are numb. It is bad enough to lose one person from a family in an accident but to lose two? It doesn’t bear thinking about. I never saw people as shocked,” he told The Mayo News.
“The people in the community are absolutely numb. It was such a freak accident, how this happened is just unreal. There is total devastation in the parish. I’m devastated. I’ve never been as upset over anything before. We’ve had a lot of tragedies but this is the worst. The girls were really looking forward to the disco and to think that this happened …”
Great parent and friend
Sandra worked as a Executive Officer with the Road Safety Authority (RSA) while Rachel was a Second Year student at St Joseph’s Secondary School in Foxford. RSA Chief Noel Brett paid tribute to Sandra, who he described as a ‘model public servant’.
“The sense of loss felt by her colleagues is overwhelming. We’re numbed, shocked and horrified by what happened,” Mr Brett told The Mayo News. “With work the thing that comes to mind is her absolute dedication. She was exceptionally bright and diligent and she was always someone you could completely depend on.
“She was an exemplary public servant and was a model of what we need public servants to be in this country. If we had new staff and I was trying to show them what was required of a model public servant, I would point them in Sandra’s direction,” he said.
The most poignant aspect of the tragedy for Mr Brett was Sandra died whilst doing something so selfless, bringing her daughter and friends to a disco and helping to supervise there.
“The tragic thing is that Sandra died doing what she did so well - being a great parent and a friend. Giving up her evening to bring her daughter and friends to the disco and providing parental supervision,” he said.Seamus Weir gave an indication of how active and involved Sandra Herbert was in the local community.
“When I would be out canvassing, Sandra would always be onto me looking for more youth facilities for the young people, particularly sporting facilities. She was a great lady and great for the community,” he said.
He also remembered how strong Sandra was for her husband James when he suffered a fall on a building site in England last year and was wheelchair bound for months.
“Sandra went through a lot with James, she went over to mind him for weeks after he had the accident, when he was in hospital. He was critical for a time and was in a wheelchair for months. He was just getting back to himself recently, which makes this even sadder,” said Cllr Weir.
Rachel Herbert was remembered by one local as a ‘really pleasant girl’. “You’d always see her up at Knockmore football matches, she was an avid fan, especially with [her brother] Daryl playing. She was big into the boxing with Knockmore Boxing Club too and was always so nice, a really pleasant girl. She was a credit to her parents,” she said.
Inspector Joe Doherty of Ballina Garda Station is asking for anyone who travelled on the Rathduff to Corroy road on Friday night to contact the station at 096 20560. He extended his sympathies to the Herbert family.
Both mother and daughter will be buried in Ballinahaglish Cemetery this afternoon after their funeral Mass at 12 noon in Christ the King Church, Knockmore.