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  • Tragedy Strikes Vancouver Olympics Chief


    Deborah Sharp Furlong
    (ATR) Vancouver 2010 CEO John Furlong pleads for privacy as he deals with the death of his wife in a car crash in Ireland.

    Deborah Sharp Furlong, 48, died after a head-on-crash April 11 in County Wexford.

    The vehicle driven by Sharp Furlong  collided with a 4x4 at Coollishall Upper between Gorey and Clough. She was airlifted to Tallaght Hospital in Dublin where she was later pronounced dead. The driver of the 4x4 suffered minor injuries. The type of car Sharp Furlong was driving and whether a seatbelt was worn or an airbag deployed have not been released.

    John Furlong, a native of Ireland, has a property near Coollishall Upper at Killowen in rural Gorey.

    According to CBC, Furlong was contacted by police from the crash scene. The paramedic helicopter departed before Furlong could arrive, but he eventually was in Dublin to be at his wife’s deathbed.

    Garda, Ireland’s national police force, appealed for witnesses.

    Furlong met Sharp in fall 2010 and they married in 2012. Sharp was the associate producer of Arctic Air, a CBC TV drama series shot in Vancouver.

    “It is with a broken heart that I must tell you of the death of my beloved wife,” according to a prepared statement from Furlong on April 12.

    “While our extended families are beyond words over this loss, we would like to thank our friends and well-wishers for their heartfelt concern and condolences as our families face this sudden and painful tragedy. While I understand that there may be interest in more details, please understand that at this extremely difficult time, I request privacy for our families.”

    There is no word on services for Sharp Furlong, who was Furlong’s third wife.

    Furlong was 18-years-old when came to Canada from Ireland in 1969 to work as a Catholic school physical education teacher in Burns Lake, B.C. and married kindergarten teacher Margaret Cook.

    His second marriage, to dental assistant Gail Robb, ended during his VANOC tenure. His Patriot Hearts memoir was dedicated to Catherine Bachand, who was his executive assistant VANOC.

    Last September, the Georgia Straight published an expose about Furlong, including facts omitted from Patriot Hearts about his years in Northern British Columbia and allegations that he abused students at the elementary school where he worked.

    Furlong vehemently denied the abuse allegations at a Sept. 27 news conference and sued the newspaper and writer Laura Robinson for defamation in November. The Royal Canadian Mounted Police confirmed an investigation into the allegations.

    The Georgia Straight and Robinson responded Jan. 14 and 21 with defense statements containing further allegations. Robinson’s statement claimed Furlong sexually assaulted his common law spouse during his time in Nanaimo, B.C., between the Cook and Robb marriages.

    None of the allegations has been proven in court.

    A Jan. 22 statement on Furlong’s behalf from the TwentyTen Group said: “He will be making a full and complete response to these allegations, as with Ms. Robinson's previous allegations, in the course of the litigation commenced by him against Ms. Robinson last fall. His legal team will be filing a formal response in court in the coming days.”

    That statement said Furlong is "confident he will ultimately be vindicated," but his primary concern is the "irreparable harm being caused to his family by this unfounded attack on his character and reputation."

    A Jan. 23 statement credited to “the Furlong family,” said: “These shocking allegations are without merit and portray a character whom none of us recognizes. We are being subjected to shame and embarrassment by misuse of journalistic privilege and license.”

    Furlong has not filed an official court rebuttal against the Georgia Straight and Robinson.  

    In March, Furlong spokeswoman Andrea Shaw of the TwentyTen Group said “At this point in time John is reviewing the latest statements made in determining next steps.”

    Furlong remains chair of Own the Podium, the Vancouver Whitecaps of Major League Soccer and Rocky Mountaineer Railtours, as well as a director of Whistler Blackcomb Holdings and Canadian Tire.

    Coincidentally, the day of Sharp Furlong’s fatal crash was when Furlong had originally been scheduled to address the North American YMCA Development Organization convention in Vancouver. Wheelchair athlete Rick Hansen was chosen as a substitute speaker.

    "John Furlong has been in the media recently," NAYDO chair Curt Hazelbaker said via email in January. "NAYDO's annual goal is to have a tremendous conference focusing on philanthropy. We don't want anything to potentially distract from a wonderful conference experience. Rick Hansen has an inspiring story of perseverance and a tremendous record in philanthropy."

    Written and reported in Vancouver by Bob Mackin Jr.

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