CARNAGE: Victim’s mother tells of heartbreak

THE mother of one of the victims in the state’s worst road accident has spoken of her heartbreak at losing a son “with a heart of gold”.

Philomena McEleney, 50, wept as she recounted how two young girls had called to the family home close to midnight on Sunday to tell her a crash had occurred just yards away.

Her 23-year-old son, James, was one of seven who died shortly after 10.30pm on Sunday when the black VW Passat they were travelling was in collision with a Toyota Corolla, driven by 66-year-old pensioner Hugh Friel who also died at the scene.

Gardaí have named the other men who died as Eamon McDaid, 22, Buncrana, Inishowen; Mark McLaughlin, 21, Fahan; Damien McLaughlin, 21, Buncrana, Inishowen; Paul Doherty, 19, Ballyliffen, Inishowen; Ciarán Sweeney, 19, Ballyliffen and PJ McLaughlin, 24, Burnfoot, Inishowen.

The driver of the car, Seán Kelly, 21, Buncrana, was in a stable condition last night.

The young men had been watching the World Cup final earlier on in the evening while Mr Friel had been returning from bingo in nearby Buncrana.

The young men’s Passat clipped a Renault Megane on the country road to Buncrana before ploughing head-on into Mr Friel’s car 200 metres away.

Ms McEleney said when she heard the knock at the door she thought it was her son coming home. “I was in bed when the knock came... they said there had been a crash and that James had been in it. I prayed he would be all right, but the gardaí wouldn’t let me up to the crash site to see him... around 3.30am I got word James had died.”

The Donegal woman went on to say no mother should have to bury their children in this way.

“It’s just not right. I feel I almost can’t do this, like if I see his face, see his injuries, that it will suddenly hit home, my boy is dead.”

Meanwhile, it emerged last night the stretch of road where the accident occurred — known to locals as a “bad bend” — had been flagged by gardaí as a collision prone zone. The road was the scene of 11 road accidents in recent years.

Reacting last night, the father of a girl killed in a crash that claimed five lives near Quigley’s Point in Donegal in late 2005 called for a greater Garda presence on the county’s roads.

Terry Peoples’ daughter, Rochelle, 22, was killed in a collision with another car. She was travelling with four young friends at the time. “After the crash where Rochelle died, they set up a local traffic corps... There was a campaign for a while and that seemed to work... I’d like to see it put back in place again,” said Mr Peoples.

Last night Road Safety Authority chairman Gay Byrne said there was continued and “particularly specific awful danger with 17 to 24-year-old males”.

“You can advise them and talk to them and show them commercials... but the minute they get behind the wheel of a car, something goes wrong.”

Assistant Garda Commissioner Kieran Kenny — who described the scene as the worst road accident he has dealt with in his 34 years in the force — said there was “no indication at this time that alcohol was a factor”.

Prayers were offered for all those caught up in the tragedy at a morning Mass in Buncrana, ahead of several removals from Letterkenny to the family homes across three Inishowen parishes.

Fr Rafal Januszewski, who celebrated Mass at St Mary’s, spent time comforting scores of relatives who gathered in the hospital throughout last night.

“They were distraught. We were talking about this tragedy and offering words of comfort."


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