Donegal ‘plunged into grief’ after four die in crash

Young friends who died in ‘devastating’ incident near Gortahork described as ‘lovely lads’

 

The chaplain who attended the crash in Co Donegal in which four young men died last night has described the scene as the “stuff of nightmares”.

Fr Brian Ó Fearraigh, from Gweedore, said two communities had been “plunged into the depths of grief and mourning by this most tragic of events”.

The four young men who died last night in the crash have been named locally as; John Harley (24) and Shaun Harkin (22) from Falcarragh, Mícheál Roarty (24) from Gweedore and Daniel Scott from Gort an Choirce, who was in his 20s.

The crash happened near a bridge at Meenaclady between Gweedore and Gortahork at around 8.40pm on Sunday when the 2001 Toyota Corolla car they were travelling in went off the road.

Fr Ó Fearraigh, a chaplain in Gaoth Dobhair, paid tribute to the emergency services and first responders in what he described as very difficult circumstances.

He told RTÉ’s Today with Seán O’Rourke nothing could prepare a priest or the emergency services for what they witnessed last night. “It is people’s worst nightmare.”

Fr Ó Fearraigh said when family members arrived “all I could do was embrace them. At a time like that words fall silent.”

The Garda leading the investigation on Monday appealed for information about the movements of the car before the crash.

‘Devastating’

Three of the four men – Mr Harkin, Mr Scott and Mr Harley – attended Pobolscoil Chloich Cheannfhaola in Falcarragh. Principal Maeve Sweeney spoke of the “devastating” loss of “three lovely lads”.

Mr Harkin went to Letterkenny IT to qualify as an electrician. Mr Scott went to the same college to become a civil engineer and was taking up a new post in Denmark next week. Mr Harley went to Sligo IT to study to be an electrician also. The trio were mad about sport and played Gaelic football, soccer and golf at the school, where Mr Harley and Mr Scott were captains of their local GAA teams.

“It certainly is devastating for the whole school community this morning,” Ms Sweeney said.

The scene of the crash in Co Donegal last night in which four young men were killed. Photograph: North West Newspix
The scene of the crash in Co Donegal last night in which four young men were killed. Photograph: North West Newspix

“One of them has a brother still attending the school and the others have cousins and friends here in the school. This is a small school, 460 students, it’s very much a family, it’s a community school, they would have been regarded as our family. They would have strong connections in the area,” she said.

“It has been heartwrenching. Our thoughts and our prayers are with the families at this time because it’s unimaginable what they’re going through at this moment.”

Appeal

Speaking at a press conference at Bunbeg Garda station, Supt David Kelly appealed for anyone who saw the car travelling in the direction of Magheraroarty before the crash to contact Milford Garda station.

“When gardaí attended the scene they found one vehicle which was Toyota Corolla hatchback, silver in colour and it was off the road. There were four casualties.

“Also in attendance was the HSE ambulance service and our colleagues from the Donegal County Council fire and rescue service.

“As you can imagine it was nine o’clock at night and it was dark. It was a tragic scene. Family members arrived and so there was good work done by all the emergency services in difficult conditions.

“I would like to sincere, on behalf of the gardaí and my other colleagues, to offer my sincere condolences to the family, friends and the community after this tragic incident.

The scene of the crash remains sealed off as Garda collision investigators begin the painstaking task of piecing together how the crash may have happened.

The Gortahork parish priest has described the “shock and sadness” in the community at the news of the deaths.

Well-known

Fr Seán Ó Gallchóir told RTÉ’s Morning Ireland all of the young men were well-known, with one of them playing Gaelic football and soccer with local teams. All four were well-known and came from well-known families, he added.

People in the area are “saddened, stunned, in total disbelief and totally numb,” Fr Ó Gallchóir said.

“Their loss will be felt right across the community of the three parishes. The two boys were in the same class in primary school and in community school. They grew up together, they were friends all their lives.”

Fr Ó Gallchóir said everyone was devastated, in shock and experiencing great grief. “It is beyond belief.”

He said communities, especially rural communities always rally and will do everything to support the families.

“For the parents there will be a void now for all of their lives. It is just unexplainable, people are bewildered by the whole thing.

Donegal TD Pearse Doherty said today was not the day to have a discussion on road safety. He said it was a time for supporting the families and friends of the four young men.

“It’s going to be a very difficult few days,” he told Newstalk Breakfast.

Mr Doherty said sadly Donegal was unfortunately all too familiar with similar crashes and there had been, one just weeks ago, in The Rosses.

Donegal has seen several major tragedies on the roads in recent years. In July 2010, eight men died near Buncrana after a vehicle left the road, and the driver was later prosecuted.

Last year, two people were killed and three injured in a crash in Bundoran. The vehicle they were travelling in hit a wall.