Hawaii trip and anniversary celebration turns tragic
An East Rockaway, N.Y., couple involved in Thursday's deadly helicopter crash on Kauai were on their first trip to Hawaii, an anniversary present from their children, friends and neighbors said.
Neighbor Claudia Tucker called John and Veronica O'Donnell, both 45, "just wonderful loving, giving people."
John O'Donnell was one of four people killed when a Heli USA A-Star 350BA crashed at the Princeville Airport.
Veronica O'Donnell is one of three crash survivors being treated at Queen's Medical Center for serious injuries.
Tucker said friends are praying for O'Donnell's recovery and for her loss of her husband.
The O'Donnells' nine-day Hawaii trip was an 25th anniversary present from their children, David O'Donnell, 23, a financial adviser, and Lorraine O'Donnell, 24, a nurse.
The O'Donnells' children flew to Hawaii on Friday. "It's been pretty traumatic for them because they got them this trip," said family friend Neil Griffin of Valley Stream, New York.
John O'Donnell was born in New York City, but grew up in County Mayo in western Ireland, just 20 miles away from his future wife. They were married by age 20, and soon moved to Sunnyside, Queens.
John O'Donnell worked as a carpenter in Manhattan, eventually becoming a foreman for a construction firm. Victoria, known to her friends as "Bernie," was a nurse educator at Winthrop-University Hospital's neuroscience unit.
John O'Donnell "lived for his family," said Eileen Timlin-McCormack of Freeport, New York, who's known him for 45 years. "He was so proud of his kids. He was proud of the people they turned into."
In the East Rockaway neighborhood where the couple moved three years ago, John O'Donnell was the neighborhood Mr. Fix-it -- plugging leaks, fixing doors and entertaining with his Irish brogue and quick wit, neighbors said.
On special occasions, the O'Donnells would host a neighborhood barbecue.
"You couldn't imagine one without the other," said Karen Antaky, a nursing manager at Winthrop Hospital.
The couple traveled often, including two trips a year to Ireland to visit John O'Donnell's mother, but they'd never been to Hawaii, friends said.
The O'Donnells couldn't make the trip on their March 27th anniversary, friends said, so they scheduled it earlier and decided on three days each in Oahu, Kauai and Maui.
"They were supposed to come back today," said Tony Crescitelli, who was a fishing buddy of John O'Donnell. "I keep looking out the door to see if he's here."
The Newsday newspaper contributed to this report.