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‘I am still alive but my life is different now’ - survivor of Creeslough explosion says his ‘heart is broken’

Butcher Pádraig O’Donnell (51) tells TG4 documentary the scene was ‘like 9/11 or the Omagh bomb’

A survivor of the explosion at Creeslough, Co Donegal last October has said “my heart is broken thinking about those who died. I can’t think about anything else. I pray for their souls. It’s not an experience you want to be in.”

Pádraig O’Donnell (51) was a butcher in Lafferty’s supermarket on October 7th last when the explosion took place. The scene, he said, was like “9/11 or the Omagh bomb,” he said. He had been “just returning to the butcher counter when the next thing, ‘bang’. There was an explosion. It was very big and loud. It was just unbelievable. It was a terrible scene.”

Ten people lost their lives: five-year-old Shauna Flanagan Garwe and her father Robert Garwe (50), Leona Harper (14), Hugh Kelly (59), Jessica Gallagher (24), Martin McGill (49), James O’Flaherty (48), Martina Martin (49), Catherine O’Donnell (39) and her 13-year-old son James Monaghan.

Mr O’Donnell gives an account of what he saw that day in a new documentary Iniúchadh TG4 – An Craoslach, which will be broadcast on TG4 at 9.30pm on Wednesday.


Although he was suffering from shock himself, he managed to help an elderly woman covered in dust get out the back door of the building. She was one of the first people rescued. “She was shocked and very quiet. We did not speak. Outside the shop there were just bricks and debris everywhere. I hadn’t an idea what happened. It was a terrible scene,” he said.

He went back inside the shop again. “There were others in the shop and I had to go back inside to help whoever I could,” he said. “I am still alive but my life is different now,” he said.

Also taking part in the documentary is digger driver Henry Gallagher, who remained in the cab of his excavator for 24 hours, removing rubble from the collapsed building until the last body was taken out. He saw “a river of high-vis vests [behind me] and I know that among that there were families waiting for news. The only way that they are going to get news of a loved one being taken out, is for me to get in.”

Lorry driver Colin Kilpatrick from Raphoe in Co Donegal was making a delivery in Creeslough that day when he heard the explosion. He was among the first rescuers at the garage forecourt where he managed to help free one of the injured by using a car jack to lift concrete slabs. “People got out and people didn’t get out, but what we done worked,” he said.

The documentary focuses on rescue efforts by the ordinary people of Creeslough in the immediate aftermath of the tragedy. It is the first in a new series of monthly current affairs and investigative programmes that will be broadcast by TG4 this year examining the issues behind the headlines of current major Irish news stories.

Patsy McGarry

Patsy McGarry

Patsy McGarry is Religious Affairs Correspondent of The Irish Times