07 Aug 2022

''A wonderful father and a true Irishman" - Tributes paid after son of former Derry Sinn Fein MLA dies after being hit by truck in cycling accident in US

Tributes have been paid to the son of former Derry Sinn Féin MLA Mary Nelis after he was killed in a cycling accident in the US. Father-of-three Martin Nelis (pictured above) was hit by a truck while cycling in Pleasant Hill, California, on Thursday. He was riding along Reliez Valley Road between Gloria Terrace and Withers Avenue in Lafayette around noontime Thursday, when a call came in to the Contra Costa County Sheriff about a man being hit by a big-rig truck. The 54-year-old, who was was the public information officer for Pleasant Hill, was transported to the hospital where he died a short time later. A graduate of Queen’s University Belfast, Mr Nelis had been working as a public information officer for the city of Pleasant Hill for the last 11 years. His mother, Mary, served on the former Derry city council and as an MLA, and was also leading civil rights campaigner in the late 1960s. Mr Nelis’s father Billy Nelis died in January. His oldest brother, Peter, was killed in a road accident in the 1970s. Speaking to the news channel ABC7, neighbours of Mr Nelis expressed their shock at the tragedy, describing him as a 'wonderful father'. Tim Flaherty, mayor of Pleasant Hill, said his death was a huge loss to the city. He said: “Martin was often the first to volunteer for any civic event or meeting and the last to leave and turn off the lights.” “Martin was incredibly bright and witty and a true Irishman.” Meanwhile, Mr Nelis' brother, the local Irish language activist Donncha Mac Niallais said: “So heartbroken but proud to having had a great human being as a brother. Our rock is gone but will be in our hearts and many others for ever.”

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