CHAOS erupted in the capital’s main thoroughfare at just before 3pm yesterday after a Luas tram crashed into the side of a bus.
One eyewitness described the initial impact as making the street reverberate with a “low dull thud”. His immediate fear that it might have been an explosion was allayed when he saw scores of people hurrying to the intersection of Abbey Street and O’Connell Street, where the vehicles had collided.
Within minutes four fire brigade units and scores of gardaí were at the scene assisting passengers, many of them in shock as they tumbled out of the derailed tram and bus.
People who had been on the street near the incident were also left in a state of shock, as traffic lights and a street sign were ripped from the pavement by the bus.
The impact left the crushed front of the tram embedded two feet into the side of the number 16 Dublin Bus, which had been heading with 22 passengers towards the north city suburb of Santry. The bus had crossed over O’Connell Bridge and was yet to pass the GPO.
Donna Haden, 22, had been waiting for her friend at the O’Connell Street McDonald’s restaurant when the collision occurred.
“I just heard the bang. I didn’t hear the brakes screeching and the Luas seemed to run right into the side of the bus. There was immediate panic with people trying to get onto the street.
“Ambulances were on the scene very quickly and those worst hurt were taken away nearly immediately. The walking wounded, which included my friend, were tagged and then a minibus came to collect them,” she said.
However, it took nearly 45 minutes for the Luas driver and two women bus passengers to be cut free from the badly damaged vehicles by the Dublin Fire Service.
A paper vendor saw pieces of the traffic light fly through the air after the bus was shunted onto O’Connell street’s central pavement area. “I think some of the people who congregate around the statue of Lord Gray may have been hit by the debris,” he said.
Another eyewitness, Dean Harrison, said he saw an “Asian woman lying on the ground either in shock from seeing the crash or after being hit by something”.
For more than two hours both lanes of O’Connell Street were closed to traffic by Garda cordons that kept back hundreds of onlookers. The road closure caused major traffic delays throughout the city centre.
The Mater Hospital, received 21 people in its A&E department. Some other people with minor injuries were treated at the scene.
A spokeswoman for Luas operator Veolia confirmed that three people had been seriously hurt in the crash and that the company had begun an investigation.
Fine Gael Seanad transport spokesperson Senator Paschal Donohoe described the crash as an “unthinkable” collision that must be urgently investigated. “It is imperative that this crash be urgently investigated and that the findings be published”, he said.
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