Investigation into fatal Co Donegal crash continues


Forensic examinations of the scene are to continue today as investigators try to establish the cause of Sunday's crash in Co Donegal which claimed eight lives.

Seven men aged between 19 and 23, all of whom were passengers in one car, and the 66-year-old driver of a second car were killed in the crash, which happened outside Clonmany, near Buncrana.

The crash claimed more lives than any other road incident since records began nearly 50 years ago.

The crash happened at about 10.40pm on Sunday seconds after a black Volkswagen Passat, travelling from Clonmany towards Buncrana, clipped a white Renault Mégane, causing serious damage to the driver’s side of the car. The female driver of the Renault was unhurt.

Some 200m down the road, the Passat crashed into a Toyota Corolla driven by Hugh Friel, from Dunaff, Clonmany. Mr Friel, who was travelling from Buncrana, where he had played bingo, was killed. Both cars left the road as a result of the crash, landing in a ditch.

The young men who were killed were named as Mark McLaughlin of Ballinahone, Fahan (21); Paul Doherty of Ardagh, Ballyliffin (19); Ciaran Sweeney of Ballyliffin (19); PJ McLaughlin of Rockstown in Burnfoot (21); James McEleney of Minaduff, Clonmany (23); Eamonn McDaid of Cruckaheeny Buncrana (22); and Damien McLaughlin of Umricam, Buncrana (21).

The 21-year-old driver of the Passat, who was a cousin of one of those killed, remains in a serious condition in Letterkenny General Hospital.

There were only five seat belts in the Passat saloon car in which the eight young men were travelling. Some of the bodies of those killed were recovered outside the cars.

The crash happened at Glasmullan, Drumfries, on a short straight stretch between two bends in the road about 2km from the North Pole pub. Road conditions were dry at the time and the road itself has a good surface.

Supt Kevin English of the Buncrana Garda district said today that the road remained closed and would remain so for most of the day.

He said the divisional search team had been deployed to thoroughly investigate the crash scene. He said that heavy growth on the hard shoulders of the road where the crash occurred had made the search more difficult. “We are looking at all possible causation factors and that inquiry is very much still ongoing,” he said.

He said that the female driver of the Renault was helping them with their inquiries. They were also interviewing members of the public who came upon the crash moments after it occurred.

“We would like to acknowledge the co-operation of members of the public who have come forward to assist us with our inquiries,” he said.

He said gardaí were continuing to provide support to the families of the victims and that Garda liaison officers had been tasked to assist them. Gardaí are appealing to witnesses to contact them in Buncrana on 074-9320540.

Funeral arrangements for the victims of the crash were announced today.

The first of the funerals will be that of Mr Friel, who will be buried at St Michael’s church in Urris tomorrow morning. At 11am the funeral will take place of Mark McLaughlin in Fahan while the funeral of PJ McLaughlin is to take place at 3pm.

On Thursday, the funerals of Damien McLaughlin, Ciaran Sweeney, Paul Doherty and Eamon McDaid will take place at St Mary’s Church in Clonmany and St Mary’s Church in Cockhill.

On Friday morning, the funeral of James McEleney, whose body was removed from Letterkenny hospital today, will take place in St Mary’s Church, Clonmany.

Meanwhile, the Health Service Executive has set up a response team to help the bereaved families and relatives and people affected by the crash. A support telephone line has been established on 087 2798412.

The HSE is also developing leaflets on emotional response to tragedy and trauma for young people and parents which include details of support services available locally. A drop-in centre for young people will also be set up with support staff assisted by the HSE.