First funerals of horror crash victims to be held

The first funerals for the men who died in Ireland’s worst road crash will be held later today.

Shattered communities in Co Donegal will come to a standstill to pay their respects and well-wishers are expected from across the country.

Seven young friends had been watching Spain’s victory in the World Cup final and died instantly along with another man in a horror smash on the Inishowen peninsula.

Some of the youths, aged between 19 and 23, left their cars behind to take a lift after socialising in the village of Clonmany minutes before the crash.

Eight people were packed into a Volkswagen Passat which clipped a Renault Megane on the country road to Buncrana before crashing head-on into a Toyota Corolla 200 yards away. The Volkswagen and the Toyota ended up in a ditch.

Alcohol was not a factor, gardai said. The driver of the third car, who was alone, was also killed.

The families attended a private ceremony and laid flowers with messages at the crash scene.

Although the area was cleaned of oil and smelled of disinfectant a telegraph pole was sheared in two and there was damage to shrubs around the small stream into which the Passat fell.

Hugh Friel, a 66-year-old man from Dunaff, Clonmany, was returning home in his Corolla after an evening at bingo in Buncrana when he was involved in the accident.

His will be the first funeral to be held this morning near his home in St Michael’s Church, Urris, and he will be buried in the adjoining cemetery.

A requiem will be said for Mark McLaughlin, 21, from Ballynahone, Fahan, at St Mary’s Church with burial in the adjoining cemetery.

And Patrick “PJ” McLaughlin, 21, from Tooban, Burnfoot, will be buried this afternoon after Mass in St Mura’s Church, Fahan.

The others killed were Paul Doherty, 19, from Ardagh, Ballyliffin; Ciaran Sweeney, 19, also from Ballyliffin; Damien McLaughlin, 21, from Umricam, near Buncrana; Eamonn McDaid, from Ballymagan, Buncrana; and James McEleney, 23, from Minaduff, Clonmany.

All died at the scene.

Mr Doherty and Mr Sweeney will be buried beside St Mary’s Church in Clonmany after separate funeral services in the same church, at 10am and 1pm respectively tomorrow.

On the same day, Mr McDaid and Damien McLaughlin will be buried beside St Mary’s, Cockhill, after separate funeral services in the same church, at 11am and 1.30pm respectively.

Mr McEleney’s body will be removed from his home in Minaduff, Clonmany, on Friday morning at 11am to St Mary’s Church in the village.

Fire service crews, paramedics and gardai were said to have been in shock after seeing the scale of death and devastation on the rural road.

The driver of the car carrying eight people was Sean Kelly from the Urris area. He was seriously ill in Letterkenny General Hospital.

It is believed he was driving some of the friends home to the Buncrana and Fahan areas while two others in the car were intending to continue socialising at the Liberties nightclub in Buncrana.

The crash happened at about 10.40pm on Sunday night on a stretch of road between Buncrana and Clonmany in the townland of Glassmullen, about 1.25 miles from the North Pole pub.

The accident happened on the R238 – 10 stretches of which are classed as crash-prone zones on official garda files.

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