The grieving parents of Irishman Thomas Keaney have paid tribute to their generous and happy son, revealing how they had donated his organs so a part of him can stay in the country he loved.
In an emotional interview yesterday, Ann and Tom Keaney told of their heartbreak and devastation at losing their 23-year-old son, who travelled to Australia 13 months ago and had been granted an extension to his visa the same day he was allegedly assaulted outside a Northbridge kebab shop on December 17.
Mr Keaney, who was originally from County Galway, was allegedly punched once to the side of the head, causing him to fall and hit his head.
Mrs Keaney recalled the devastating call from Royal Perth Hospital that her son had "suffered a severe blow to the head", but told of her relief when she was able to speak to her son by phone.
"He was asking about everyone," she said. "He couldn't remember what had happened but knew he hadn't done anything wrong.
"I thought he's OK, he was better and it was a slight bump on the head."
But the Keaneys' world came crashing down on Christmas Eve when they received a call from the hospital that Thomas had taken a turn for the worse.
Mr and Mrs Keaney rushed to their son's bedside but were only able to get a flight out from Ireland on Boxing Day.
They told of their heartbreak at seeing their son on life support in hospital. "Thomas looked so perfect . . . he looked like he was asleep . . . as if he'd wake up," Mrs Keaney said.
She said she had first "hated Australia" for what had happened to her son but her mind had been changed by the overwhelming support and kindness she and her husband had received since coming to the country their son loved so much and they had decided to donate his organs so a part of him could remain here.
They said they declined an offer from someone in Ireland to fly their three other children - Lauren, Leeann and Brian - to Australia.
Mr and Mrs Keaney spoke to the children before making the difficult decision to donate Thomas' organs.
"Brian said there's only one decision. Thomas' life is gone but there are so many he can help," Mrs Keaney said. "There are five people he helped and all we can do is wish them well and that he live on with them.
"He wanted to stay in Australia and he wanted to stay another year and now he will stay and hopefully these people will have a long and healthy life and he'll be with them and they'll take him where he wanted to go."
Thomas grew up in Chicago but the family returned to Ireland in 2009.
His parents said he was incredibly close to his three siblings.
Mr and Mrs Keaney said their son's death was senseless and they pleaded with young people to walk away from potentially volatile situations.
Mr Keaney said his son had been in the wrong place at the wrong time.
"Our lives have been ruined by this . . . There will never be another Christmas, there will never be another birthday," Mrs Keaney said.
A Mass for Thomas will be held at St Joseph's Church in Subiaco tomorrow at 7pm. It will be streamed live online.