Number of multi-death crashes in Donegal ‘staggering’, says Ross

‘These sorts of tragedies have gone on for too long,’ says Minister after death of four men

The scene of the fatal crash in Gortahork, Co Donegal. Photograph: Rebecca Black/PA Wire

The scene of the fatal crash in Gortahork, Co Donegal. Photograph: Rebecca Black/PA Wire


It is inexplicable why so many young people are dying in multiple-fatality car crashes in Donegal, Minister for Transport Shane Ross has said.

Speaking after the death of four young men in a single vehicle collision in the county on Sunday, the Minister said the number of families who have lost relatives in such circumstances there is “staggering and stunning”.

“It’s difficult to understand and all we can do is sympathise with the people there. It’s just dreadful,” he said.

Friends Mícheál Roarty (24) from Dunlewey, John Harley (24) from Falcarragh, Shaun Harkin (22) from Falcarragh and Daniel Scott (24) from Gortahork, all died instantly when the Toyota Corolla car they were in flipped on to its roof near Magheraroarty at 8.40pm on Sunday night. All four men will be buried on Thursday.

Donegal was the county with the second-highest number of road fatalities in 2018, with 10 deaths. Per head of population, it had the fifth-highest rate of road deaths.

However, in recent years it has accounted for a disproportionately large percentage of incidents involving multiple deaths in a single collision.

Donegal road deaths

The facts of multiple fatality crashes since 2010 VIEW NOW

Since 2011 there have been 11 collisions in Donegal that resulted in more than one death. These include the death of three young people in a 2016 incident in Corravaddy, and a 2010 crash near Buncrana, which left eight young men dead, making it the worst road traffic incident in the history of the State.

“There have been a large number of incidents with multiple deaths in Donegal but it’s not the only county which has them,” the Minister said.

“It would indicate to us these sorts of tragedies have gone on for far too long and it’s something we as a government have to address.”

‘Very deflating’

Multiple death collisions in Donegal “just seem to happen regularly and out of the blue”, the county council’s road safety officer Brian O’Donnell said.

Mr O’Donnell said there were plenty of Garda resources in the county for road policing, but due to the size of the county and its vast network of rural roads, these have less impact than they would in other counties.

“I have to update the statistics and every time you type in a number, you’re typing in someone who has a father, a mother, a brother, a sister.

“It’s very deflating when you hear about these things late at night. It’s like someone hitting you in the stomach. You take it personally. You ask, should we have done more?”

A Garda investigation into the cause of Sunday’s crash continues, and gardaí have appealed for witnesses. A counselling service has been set up to by the HSE to help people across west Donegal who are affected by the crash.

GAA president John Horan offered his condolences to the families and friends of the men “in the prime of their lives” who had been involved in the organisation.

Donegal will be united in grief on Thursday as the funerals of the four men will be staggered throughout the day. The funeral of Shaun Harkin will take place at Christ The King Church in Gortahork at 10am. At 11.30am the funeral of Mícheál Roarty will be held in the Sacred Heart Church, Dunlewey. John Harley will be buried following Mass at St Finian’s Church, Falcarragh, at 1pm, and the funeral of Daniel Scott will take place at Christ the King Church, Gortahork at 2.30pm.