As Carlow and Athy prepared for the funerals of the four pals killed in Tuesday night’s horror crash, the chaplain of St Leo’s College, where they sat their Leaving Certificate just over a year ago, spoke to the heartbroken mourners and tried to address their pain.
Fr John Cummins told a private memorial service for Niamh Doyle, Ashling Middleton, Gemma Nolan, and Chermaine Carroll in Carlow Cathedral that a cloud hung over the town, heavy, grey and heart-breaking.
“For the community of St Leo’s, the tragedy of Tuesday has shocked and numbed us, and we find ourselves in this unwanted place of grief and sorrow,” he told the congregation of friends, former teachers, and relatives.
He recalled the words that the girls’ class had chosen for their graduation Mass in 2013, when they opted for the writings of comic author, Dr Seuss, whose classic Oh, The Places You’ll Go! has become a time-honoured gift for students moving on to their next big adventure.
“‘You’re off to great places, today is your day! Your mountain is waiting so, get on your way!’” he quoted, adding: “We joked with them about whether or not Dr Seuss was on the syllabus for Leaving Certificate English.
“Who guessed that this would be the mountain that was waiting. But certainly the enthusiasm, the joy, the hope and optimism of those words epitomised what these girls stood for.
“Their friendship, their sense of fairness, their care, the contribution they made to St Leo’s — they embraced life, with all its beauty, its adventure and its challenges. St Leo’s was all the richer for their presence; our world is all the poorer for their loss.”
That loss will be felt keenly again this morning when the first of the victims, Chermaine Carroll, 20, will be laid to rest following funeral Mass at 11am St Mary’s Church, Bennekerry, on the outskirts of Carlow town.
The funeral of Gemma Nolan, 19, will follow this afternoon at 2pm at the Holy Family Church in Askea where Niamh Doyle, 19, will also be mourned tomorrow at noon.
Their friend, Ashling Middleton, will also be buried tomorrow after funeral Mass at the Church of the Irish Martyrs, Ballycane, Naas, Co Kildare, at 2pm.
Prayers were also said at the service for 20-year-old Dayna Kearney, who was driving her friends after a day out when the accident happened and who suffered serious injuries in the crash.
Meanwhile, gardaí have begun examining camera footage from a bus which was approaching the site of the crash at around the time it happened.
Officers have spoken to the bus driver and the two Polish men in the van which collided with the women’s car. Gardaí have appealed to eye-witnesses who assisted emergency personnel at the crash site, but who didn’t leave their details, to contact them.
The tragedy happened when the women’s 01 Volkwagen Polo struck the 97 Volkswagen Transporter van, on the N78 road, linking the M9 with Athy, at 9.45pm on Tuesday.
Forensic collision are examining the condition of both vehicles to see if there were any mechanical failures, particularly in the Polo. They are investigating reports a tyre in the car suffered a blow-out.