Bus driver hailed a hero after saving pensioners

A bus driver has been hailed a hero after his driving skills helped to save the lives of more than 50 elderly people who were on a pensioners’ outing.

Bernard McGuinness who owns the bus, said there was no doubt his driver Francis McKelvey saved lives when he swerved into a ditch to avoid a head-on collision with a car in Co Donegal on Saturday evening.

The passengers — most aged between 70 and 80 — were treated as a precaution in Letterkenny General Hospital after the collision at Castleogry, Killybegs.

Three, including the car driver, were kept in hospital overnight.

Mr McGuinness said: “At the hospital a doctor told the pensioners in the accident and emergency department that they owed their lives and the fact nobody was seriously injured to the actions of the bus driver.”

The outing for pensioners had been organised by the voluntary Carrigans and St Johnstone Social Services Group which is linked to Care of the Aged.

The group were on their way to the Nesbitt Arms Hotel in Ardara for a meal and some dancing when the accident occurred.

They had earlier been shopping and sightseeing in Donegal town.

A car driven by an 18-year-old, with another young man in the passenger seat, apparently went out of control as it mounted a rise on the road in front of the bus.

Mr McKelvey, 58, from Manorcunningham, said: “I knew there was going to be a collision because the two vehicles were so close, but I reckoned that if the car collided with the side of the bus instead of the front, there was a chance of saving lives.”

Gardaí confirmed the car collided with the driver’s side of the bus and skidded alongside, finishing up about 50m behind it.

Mr McKelvey said: “The bus ended up in a ditch on the left-hand side. I had to walk down to the bottom of the bus and open the end door for people to get out.”

Within 20 minutes the emergency services arrived.

Letterkenny General Hospital activated its major incident plan to deal with the dozens of patients admitted after the accident.

Sean Murphy, hospital general manager, thanked staff for a prompt response.

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