Fire ripped through bombed hotel, says eyewitness

 

AS forensic scientists sifted through the devastation at the Killyhevlin Hotel, on the outskirts of Enniskillen, the owners were last night still hopeful that they could reopen part of the building within the next week.

The device, which exploded shortly before midnight on Saturday, was packed with 1,200lb of home made explosives. The explosion virtually destroyed the new wing of the three star hotel. It left a crater 12ft wide in the car park and destroyed at least a dozen cars. Bedrooms at the front of the hotel were also wrecked.

The bomb, which could be heard across the border in Co Cavan, has re awakened memories of the Remembrance Sunday IRA bombing in 1987 in which 11 people died.

Senior RUC officers in Enniskillen have declined to comment on the possibility of the military wing of Republican Sinn Fein being responsible. Det Supt Brian McVicker said: "Nothing would surprise me but we are at the very early stages of the investigation at the moment."

Seventeen people were slightly injured and three were detained overnight at the Erne Hospital, but none was seriously injured.

Supt Ken McFarland, the divisional commander, said the hotel received two bomb warnings at 11.40 p.m. The warning stated that a silver grey Isuzu jeep, registration number 92RN92, containing a bomb was parked in the hotel car park.

Hotel staff and management immediately began evacuating residents, including 200 guests at the wedding of a Catholic couple, Mr Thaddeus Turbet and Ms Martina McManus. Two minutes after the hotel was evacuated the bomb exploded.

Mr James McNamee, who was videoing the wedding, said he dived to the ground "when she blew up. The fire went through the whole building very quickly. It was unbelievable, with cars exploding because of their petrol tanks, and tyres burning". He described the hotel evacuation as very calm and praised the hotel porter, Mr William Stinson.

The Ulster Unionist security spokesman, Mr Ken Maginnis, believed the IRA was responsible "whether they carried it out using their own active service units or the Donegal Leitrim units of Republican Sinn Fein".

He said there was as much spontaneity about the bomb as there was about the 2,000 petrol bombs in Derry on July 11th night.

"This is something which was planned as far back as the 3rd July when the jeep was stolen in Dublin. The bomb was placed prepared, primed, stored and moved into position."