Tragedy marred the opening day of the Shell Donegal International Rally when a competing car went off the road on the second stage near Ballybofey.
The organisers of the Donegal International Rally, which is the third round of the Irish Tarmac Championship, issued the following statement
"During the running of the Shell Donegal International Rally, an accident occurred at Stranabritick, Cloghan, Brockagh when a competing car left the road.
"Emergency services were immediately on the scene and the event was halted. Despite their best efforts, two people were fatally injured and another was removed to Letterkenny General Hospital.
"The Organisers of the rally have expressed their deepest sympathy to the families of the bereaved.
"The remainder of the Donegal International Rally has been cancelled by the Organisers.
"Shell, as sponsors, fully supports the decision of the Donegal Motor Club and their thoughts are with the family of the bereaved at this tragic time."
The car had just crossed a humped back bridge when it ploughed into the crowd, said Charlie Collins of Donegal’s Highland Radio.
He said it was thought the two men who were killed were marshals in their 20s. He told RTE: ‘‘We believe that the two people who lost their lives were acting as marshals on the stage when the car left the road.
‘‘Spectators, competitors, motor club people and media people are shocked and in complete numbness after what has happened here.’’
He said cars used the humped back bridge as a ‘‘high jump’’.
‘‘It is a pretty spectacular scene for people who are watching and the car would be travelling at high speed.
‘‘Spectators watching rallies like to be at points like this where they can see the cars with all four wheels off the road.
‘The car passes safely by 99.9% of the time and there is a great deal of excitement but unfortunately on this occasion that didn’t happen.’’
He went on: ‘‘We had some rain in the area prior to the stage and tyre selection had been causing some concern for a number of the drivers.
‘‘The stage, we understand, was pretty slippery and with the speeds involved it only takes the slightest mistake and a tragedy like this can happen.
‘‘It has never happened in Donegal before so people here are in a big state of shock,’’ he said.
A spokeswoman for Letterkenny General Hospital said the two men died at the scene and were declared dead on arrival at the hospital.
One postmortem examination would be carried out tonight and the second tomorrow, she said.
A further three men were admitted to the hospital after being taken there by ambulance, she said.
One was in a serious condition and the other two had superficial injuries, she said. None of the three, aged in their 20s to 40s, had life-threatening injuries, she added.