ESCAPE from grief was an impossibility in Inishowen yesterday.

It hung in the air, stifling conversation, stalling traffic, shutting businesses. It was in the strained faces of local people, in the grim tone of their voices, in the awkward shuffling of feet on church paths.

It was as if the mangled cars that entombed the bodies of the dead on Sunday night had trapped their families, friends and neighbours too, locking them into anguish.

Three of the eight victims were buried in rain-soaked cemeteries yesterday — 66-year-old Hugh Friel from Clonmany and Mark McLaughlin and PJ McLaughlin, both 21 and from Fahan.

“Far too young to die,” Fr Neil McGoldrick of Fahan, said of Mark at the first of the two funerals he presided over at St Mura’s Church in his quiet, rural parish.

But the description applied to all who were lost as mourners heard of men young in age and young at heart who despite the years that divided them, valued essentially the same things — friends, family, community and the satisfaction that comes from hard work.

From Hugh’s flat cap to PJ’s football shirt, the small personal belongings, anecdotes and memories that were offered revealed lives that were full and precious.

“You’ve known them all their lives, you have pictures of them in your mind. It’s very hard to think of those pictures changed,” Fr McGold- rick told mourners.

Notices on the doors of all the churches urged people to call HSE help- lines for support.

Today four more funerals take place, of Paul Doherty, Eamonn McDaid, Ciarán McSweeney and Damien McLaughlin, and on Friday, the final one, of James McEleney.

Local people say they’ll pull together to get through the two more days of funerals but they concede with resignation that there’ll be no escaping the countless days of sorrow ahead.


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