BINGO-MAD farmer Hugh Friel was celebrating a €65 bingo win on the night he died in the biggest car crash the state has ever seen.
The pensioner from Clonmany, Co Donegal, was “over the moon” with his one-line win at Buncrana bingo club around an hour before his Toyota Corolla was involved in the devastating crash that claimed his life and seven young friends from Donegal.
Bingo caller Danny Henderson said the win “left a big smile” on Hughey’s face — and everyone was still “horrified and stunned” at the loss of a “true character” who was so mad about getting a full house, he showed up with pals sometimes twice a week.
Danny, 61, from Buncrana, said: “Hughey was delighted with the win, he said to my wife: ‘Are you sure they’ve got it right, I’ve won?’
“He collected his winnings and then he went off smiling. He was delighted, he loved to win and it wasn’t a lot of money but it did leave him in great form.
“He just loved the game and coming here with his friends, around six fellas who he’d always sit with and have the craic with.”
But horror struck when Hughey met his death on one of the most notorious bends in Inishowen, on the Buncrana to Clonmany road.
Danny said: “I heard there was a red Toyota Corolla in the crash and I just knew it was Hughey then... He loved that car. And he didn’t drive fast, never, he was a very careful driver.
“He may have been 66, but he was still a young man, full of life and had a lot still to do.”
Hugh never married but had a lot of pals, including other farmers from Donegal.
And he was a devoted family man. When his sisters visited from England he would even splash out on up to three bingo books.
“He would joke, I’m splashing out on the ladies for the night,” Danny said.
“He really was a lovely fella and he will be sorely missed here, everyone is in so sad over this. You can feel the a solemn atmosphere in the community. Everyone is in shock.”
A large gathering attended Hugh’s wake yesterday, drinking tea and eating sandwiches.
One female friend said: “What can you say when nothing is going to bring Hugh back?”
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