Candlelight vigil held in Cork harbour town for bus driver and priest killed in freak traffic accident

The victims of yesterday's bus accident were Fr Con Cronin, a curate in Passage West, and bus driver Mark Wills
Candlelight vigil held in Cork harbour town for bus driver and priest killed in freak traffic accident

Some of those who attended tonight’s candle light vigil in Passage West for Fr Con Cronin

A candlelight vigil was held in a Cork harbour town last night for the bus driver and the priest who were killed in a freak accident yesterday.

Prayers will also be offered in Passage West and Monkstown today for the two victims of the Monkstown tragedy who were named locally last night as bus driver Mark Wills, who was in his 50s, and Fr Con Cronin, a curate in Passage West, who was in his late 60s. 

Gardaí say they are investigating whether the driver of the 216 Monkstown to Cork University Hospital (CUH) Bus Éireann service suffered a medical trauma as he drove north along Monkstown's Strand Rd, which caused him to lose control of the vehicle, which then hit Fr Cronin as he walked nearby, before the bus smashed into several cars.

 The scene of a fatal road traffic accident where a bus collided with a number of cars in Monkstown, Cork Harbour. Picture: Daragh Mc Sweeney/Provision
The scene of a fatal road traffic accident where a bus collided with a number of cars in Monkstown, Cork Harbour. Picture: Daragh Mc Sweeney/Provision

The popular curate in the harbour parishes of Passage West and Monkstown, who was originally from the Borlin Valley near Bantry, was pronounced dead at the scene. 

 Fr Con Cronin, who died in a fatal road traffic accident in Monkstown, Co Cork.
Fr Con Cronin, who died in a fatal road traffic accident in Monkstown, Co Cork.

Mr Wills, who was living in Ballincollig, was also pronounced dead at the scene.

Their bodies were later removed to CUH, where autopsies will take place. The road was closed for several hours for a garda forensic collision investigation. The bus was later removed to a secure depot for further examination. 

Its onboard CCTV footage is expected to be central to the investigation.

Passage West GAA and Passage Soccer Club suspended all club activity as a mark of respect to both victims.

Passage AFC chairman Alan Lehane said there is a real sense of shock and loss in the community.

“Fr Con was a lot more than a priest — he was the heart and soul of the community,” he said.

He was completely connected to and engaged with the community, especially during Covid. And it’s a tight-knit community and his loss will be felt for a long time to come.” 

Mark Wills, who died in a fatal road traffic accident in Monkstown, Co Cork.
Mark Wills, who died in a fatal road traffic accident in Monkstown, Co Cork.

In a statement, Bus Éireann offered its sympathies to the family and friends of both victims, and described Mr Wills as “a long-standing and greatly valued employee based at the Capwell Depot”.

“This is a terrible and sad day for everyone at Bus Éireann, and we are all heavy-hearted,” said company CEO Stephen Kent.

“Our thoughts are with the families and communities affected by this loss. We would like sincerely to thank the emergency services for all their work and our own employees who responded at the scene.” 

The company is establishing supports for staff impacted by the tragedy and will conduct its own investigation, as well as assisting in the Garda investigation.

Bishop of Cork and Ross Fintan Gavin extended sympathies to the family and friends of both victims, and paid tribute to Fr Cronin, who was ordained in 1979. 

He said Fr Cronin courageously ministered in Africa with the Kiltegan Fathers for 25 years before returning to Ireland in 2004 where, after promoting the missionary work of the Church, he settled into parish life in Cork.

"Fr Cronin established a warm rapport both pastorally and personally with all to whom he ministered and all who had contact with him," he said.

He will be remembered fondly for his unique sense of humour and his openness to all people.

"All who know Fr Con are grateful for having known him, and our diocese is blessed that he ministered among us."

Gardaí in Togher have appealed for any witnesses to the incident and to anyone with dashcam footage from the Strand Road between 1.15pm and 1.45pm yesterday to contact them on 021-494 7120.

They were among three people to die on Irish roads yesterday. 

A man in his 20s died in hospital in Drogheda several hours after the car he was driving was involved in a two-car collision outside Castleblayney at 6.40am.

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