Responding to reports of the one-car collision in Clooneen, Rosbeg, Westport, shortly before 4 pm, officers came upon a harrowing sight — the dead bodies of two boys in a crashed car.
The driver of the Ford Focus car, which had smashed into a wall, survived the impact. He was rushed by ambulance to Mayo General Hospital about 20km away. His injuries are not life-threatening.
It didn’t take long for gardaí to make the connection between the grim discovery and the disappearance of Sanjeev Chada, 43, and his sons, Eoghan, 10, and Ruairi, 5, from Ballinkill, Bagenalstown, Co Carlow.
Fr Charlie McDonnell, the administrator of Westport parish, administered the last rites.
Normally talkative, the priest was weighed down by the enormity of what had happened. “This is still very raw,” Fr McDonnell said briefly. “It’s all under investigation by the gardaí. It wouldn’t be appropriate for me to comment at this stage.”
It’s understood that the boys were in the boot of the car. Gardaí do not believe they died in the car crash, which occurred after Mr Chada drove his car at speed down a side road on to the main Westport to Louisburgh road into a stone wall.
The car itself, last night hidden behind a blue and white forensic tent, remained at the scene with the bodies of the youngsters still inside.
At around 6pm, waiting reporters were told that Assistant State Pathologist Khalid Jabbar and members of the Garda Technical Bureau were on their way to the scene.
However autopsies on the bodies were likely to be deferred until today.
The Cathaoirleach of Westport Town Council, Michael McLaughlin, summed up the general feeling of shock and disbelief at the tragedy.
“This is an absolutely shocking tragedy in the middle of what has been up to now a very busy and happy summer holiday period”, he said.
Retired garda Christy Hyland, a member of Westport Town Council, said last night that the incident was one of the worst ever tragedies in the area’s history.
“This is our darkest hour,” Mr Hyland said. “This tragedy has occurred the day after the national pilgrimage to Croagh Patrick, which is normally the most joyous time of the year.”