The family of a local woman confirmed that she has been killed while touring in Ireland.
Jena Hill, 57, of Springfield, was in Ireland with her husband, Ronnie, and a group of friends, when she was struck by a vehicle on a beach there. Hill and her group were staying in the Killarney Valley Hotel in Fossa, outside Killarney.
They were at a beach known as Inch, and according to her son, Jeff Hill, she was walking alone near the water Saturday morning while her husband sat at a picnic table about 200 yards away. She was struck by a truck delivering surfing equipment to the beach. According to information provided by The Irish Times, a Dublin-based newspaper, the beach is popular with surfers. The paper also reported that vehicles driving on the beach has become a controversial issue. Vehicles are typically banned from driving on the beach, but the truck involved in the accident reportedly had a valid permit to drive there to deliver equipment.
Jena Hill was pronounced dead at the scene, and then taken to Kerry General Hospital, according to The Irish Times. The scene of the accident was sealed off until Sunday while the accident was being investigated. Hill was the third American tourist to die in an accident near the popular spot in Kerry in two years, according to The Irish Times.
An Irish parish priest, Father Brendan Harrington, reportedly visited the members of Hill’s tour group at their hotel on Saturday, and prayers for Hill and her family were offered at a weekly vigil mass at the Prince of Peace Church.
Jeff Hill, one of Jena Hill’s sons, said his mother was a beacon of guidance for others.
“She was always there, to be a sounding board for anyone,” Jeff said. “She was always working with her mind and heart.”
Jeff added that his mother was always on the go and loved to travel. He also said that although she had lived in Springfield for many years, she wouldn’t describe herself as a country girl. She was born in St. Louis, but grew up in Louisville. He said his parents met in Louisville around 1971 or 1972 and later married. After the birth of their two sons, Jeff and Dan, Jena had to adapt to life in a rural area as they moved to Washington County.
“Mom slowly adjusted to life in the country,” he said. “Mom made friends easily, and although she was opinionated, she was also very open minded and respectful of other people’s beliefs. She worked at the health department in Washington County for most of my childhood, but became a social worker after graduating from U of L. It was a career that suited her well. Her tendencies for organization and her kind heart served her well in her new role.”
Hill, along with her husband, was part of a large group of friends in Washington County that affectionately called themselves “the bus gang.” Many members of the group were not available to comment on Hill, but several of them have agreed to sit down for an interview about Hill in an upcoming issue of The Springfield Sun.
Funeral arrangements have not been made at this time. A complete obituary for Hill will appear in next week’s issue of The Springfield Sun.