Sirens signalled night of tragedy and tears

SCORES of young people were spilling out of the pubs in Buncrana on Sunday night when the revelry was interrupted by the sirens of fire brigades, ambulances and gardaí rushing through the town shortly before 11pm.

One young woman who was with her boyfriend and who knew the seven young victims killed in the VW Passat, said: “We all knew there must have been an accident but we didn’t know how bad. Some of the cars followed the fire brigade to see what had happened.

“As the night went on, we heard a couple of people had died but then the news came through that it was up to eight.

“Everyone was on their mobiles all night. I didn’t sleep a wink and calls and texts were coming in all night,” she sobbed, not wishing to be named.

“I knew most of those fellas and they were just lovely. They were very decent fellas and were very hard working.”

The driver of the second car involved in the collision, 66-year-old Hugh Friel, was returning to Clonmany having been to bingo in Buncrana.

Mr Friel attended bingo in the parish hall every Friday and Sunday night.

One regular bingo-goer said he always left as soon as the last game ended. “He would stand in the porch and play the last game of the book and would leave immediately and always had his car parked nearby. A lovely modest man,” the woman said.

It is believed the woman driving the Renault Megane, whose car was hit by the VW Passat before the fatal crash had also been at the same bingo game.

Fr Neil McGoldrick, parish priest in Fahan, where Mark McLaughlin and PJ McLaughlin lived, spoke of the news going through the parish like a shock wave that has spread throughout the Inishowen Peninsula and beyond to the US and Australia, where friends of the deceased had gone to work.

“There isn’t a person in Inishowen that does not known them or members of their families. A horrible tragedy — so many lives lost. The families are utterly shocked, numbed and stunned.

“There is a silence in the two homes here in Fahan this morning, a deathly silence, not a word to be heard. Our hearts go out to the families and all concerned. So many families trying to come to terms with the loss of young people out enjoying themselves — suddenly the enjoyment and life is gone — changed for all concerned. Our prayers are offered for all concerned that they will in some way be comforted. It is a very bleak and dark time,” Fr McGoldrick said.

All eight who died were pronounced dead at the scene.

Emergency services found six dead in the Passat and had to search for the body of the seventh victim after gardaí advised they believed there had been eight in the car.

The tragic accident more than doubled the number of people who died in Co Donegal’s roads since the start of the year.

Garda Chief Superintendent, Terry McGinn, said a lot of road safety measures had been put in place in the county and that everyone had been happy the number of fatalities had been steadily falling.

“There were six road deaths so far this year in Co Donegal and that was significantly down on previous years. Sunday’s accident has now brought that total to 14,” she said.

The HSE have set up an information support telephone service for members of the community affected by the tragedy that can be accessed around the clock on 087 2798412.


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