THERE was a numbed silence across a Donegal peninsula yesterday evening as hearse after hearse made the journey from Letterkenny General Hospital to Fahan, Buncrana, Clonmany and Ballyliffen and families prepared for the first of eight funerals today.
The first funeral today is that of Hugh Friel, 66, from Dunaff, Clonmany, who was the lone occupant of the red Toyota Corolla which was in collision with the VW Passat in which the seven young men died at Glasmullan, near Clonmany. Mr Friel, a single man, will be laid to rest following Requiem Mass in St Michael’s Church, Clonmany, at 10am.
Mr Friel was described by his neighbours as a modest, unassuming man never drank and who loved his twice weekly bingo games in Buncrana.
“He would always leave the bingo the minute it ended so he could make the journey home before people left the pubs. He was a slow, deliberate, careful driver who will be sadly missed by his family and friends,” a neighbour said.
This will be followed by the funerals of Fahan natives Mark McLaughlin, 21, and PJ McLaughlin, 21, who will be buried following Requiem Mass in St Mura’s Church today. Two services will be held, at 11am and 3pm.
Mark McLaughlin was a lorry driver who worked for a local quarry company. His parents, John and Roma, and his brother, Damian, were still reeling from the shock.
“People are coming from as far away as Australia. Mark was a really nice young man who enjoyed life and worked hard,” a family friend said.
PJ (Mick) McLaughlin worked with his father Charlie in the family garage and breaker’s yard. He was a popular young man who played football for a local team. Large numbers of his peers gathered outside his home on Monday night before making their way to his good friend Mark’s house.
“They were at football training last Thursday and now they will be buried within a week. It’s just too much to take in. They were all friends who died together. I don’t think we will ever get over this loss of so many of our own age,” one tearful young woman said.
The funerals of a further four victims will take place tomorrow.
The first, in Clonmany, will be that of Paul Doherty, 19, from Ballyliffen. He will be laid to rest following Requiem Mass in St Mary’s Church at 10am. Paul was a cousin by marriage of Seán Kelly, 21, the driver of the Passat who is in a serious but stable condition in Letterkenny General Hospital.
Paul should have been celebrating his 20th birthday next week, the second eldest of five children of Felix and Sally.
Also at 10am, the funeral Mass of Eamon McDaid, 22, from Ballymagan, will take place in St Mary’s Church, Cockhill, Buncrana.
Eamon and Seán Kelly were neighbours.
Eamon was described by a family friend as “the salt of the earth who will be terribly missed by his devastated parents, Seamus and Martha”. Eamon had attended Crana College in Buncrana.
This will be followed by the funeral of Ciaran Sweeney, 19, from Ballyliffen, who will be laid to rest in Clonmany at 1pm following Requiem Mass in St Mary’s Church. After leaving Carndonagh Community School, Ciaran worked for a butcher in Buncrana together with his father Eamon.
A former teacher described him as a “normal young fellow who got on well with everyone”.
Ciaran had been going out with Seán Kelly’s sister.
The fourth funeral will be that of Damien McLaughlin, 21, from Umricam, who will be laid to rest in Buncrana following 2pm Requiem Mass in St Mary’s Church, Cockhill, Buncrana.
Before he left Clonmany on Sunday night he had rung his girlfriend Colleen looking for her to come and give him a lift. However, he called her back to say it was OK, that he had a lift organised with Seán Kelly.
He is survived by his parents, Robert and Noleen, two brothers and a sister. Damien had worked as a carpenter and had attended Crana College in Buncrana.
The final victim to be laid to rest is James McEleney, 23, from Meenaduff, Clonmany, who will be buried on Friday morning following Requiem Mass in St Mary’s Church, Clonmany.
James had been working for a guttering company after he finished at Carndonagh Community School. His home is located just a few kilometres from where he and his friends died.
The only survivor, Seán Kelly, drives a lorry for his father Liam Kelly, who is in the haulage business.
He had returned from Europe on Friday and had made arrangements to drive there on Monday. Many of the young friends of the dead spoke of how difficult it will be for Seán Kelly to learn the tragic consequences of Sunday night’s accident.
Local councillor Rena Donaghy, who visited the wake houses and spoke with the families, described the atmosphere as sombre.
“People are just going through the motions they are so shocked and cannot take in what has happened. Yesterday we watched one removal from the hospital after another and the final one today.
“One of the saddest things is seeing the cars belonging to these young men parked up in Clonmany where they left them on Sunday night because they had a few drinks. They wanted to do the right thing,” Cllr Donaghy added.
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