Two nuns have died in a traffic accident near Newry, Co Down that also involved a PSNI vehicle.
The two-vehicle collision happened just before 9.30am this morning. The three police officers in the PSNI vehicle were not seriously injured, police reported.
The accident happened on the main A1 Belfast to Dublin road just north of Newry. There were severe traffic hold-ups as the road was closed in both directions at the scene of the accident between the Outlet centre at Banbridge and Sheepbridge Road.
The office of the Police Ombudsman has been informed and is now investigating the accident. The police vehicle involved did not have PSNI markings.
The accident happened at the turn-off for Dromantine retreat and conference centre about five miles from Newry. It is believed that the nuns were travelling to the centre at the time of the accident.
The Sinn Féin mayor of Newry Dáire Hughes said that there was deep shock in the area at the fatalities.
“This is a tragedy, in particular coming on the back of the deaths of a cyclist last week and a young man killed in a traffic incident near Carlingford last night,” he said.
“The thoughts and prayers of the Newry and Mourne community are with the families and friends of those who have sadly lost their lives today,” added Mr Hughes.
“We also keep in our prayers all those involved in this incident. This is a tragic reminder of just how vulnerable we can all be when out on our roads,” he said.
SDLP South Down Assembly member Karen McKevitt said people were "devastated" by the accident. "I understand that the two nuns were travelling to Dromantine College for a retreat that has been taking place there when they were involved in an accident with a police car," she said.
“This junction is notoriously dangerous and has been the scene of previous road fatalities. I have lobbied Roads Service on numerous occasions to have measures put in place to improve safety but unfortunately it has now claimed more lives,” added Ms McKevitt.