Priest named as one of two people killed in Cork bus crash

Fr Con Cronin killed with driver of Bus Éireann vehicle that veered out of control

Fr Con Cronin ‘will be remembered for his unique sense of humour and his openness to all people’.

Fr Con Cronin ‘will be remembered for his unique sense of humour and his openness to all people’.

 

Gardaí have appealed for witnesses following a road traffic collision in Co Cork in which a Bus Éireann driver suffered a suspected heart attack, lost control of his bus which struck and fatally injured a local priest who was crossing the road.

Gardaí are hoping a postmortem on the bus driver Mark Wills (51) from Carrigdeane in Ballincollig will establish what exactly happened that led to him lose control while driving along Strand Road in Monkstown in the Cork Lower Harbour area.

The incident occurred at about 1.35pm when the Bus Éireann 216 service from Monkstown to Cork University Hospital veered across the road opposite the Ensign pub and collided with a wall before continuing straight ahead and knocking down local parish priest Fr Con Cronin (72).

Fr Cronin had just left the nearby Bosun pub after lunch with the local sacristan and the pair had almost crossed the road and were about to mount the footpath when the collision happened. The sacristan, a woman in her 60s, was uninjured but greatly traumatised by the incident.

The bus continued after hitting Fr Cronin and collided with six parked cars. A 13-year-old girl from Shanbally had a lucky escape when her father pulled her out of the way of one of the cars as they were walking along the path. The girl suffered minor bruising and was taken to hospital as a precautionary measure.

Mr Wills and Fr Cronin were attended to by paramedics. But both were pronounced dead at the scene and their bodies were removed to Cork University Hospital for postmortem. Gardaí closed the road to allow a forensic crash investigator examine the scene.

Gardaí have appealed to anyone who may have witnessed the collision to contact them at Togher Garda station on 021-4947120 and they are particularly anxious to speak to anyone who was travelling along Strand Road between 1.15pm and 1.45pm and may have dash-camera footage.

The scene of the crash in Monkstown village, Co Cork. Photograph: Daragh Mc Sweeney/Provision
The scene of the crash in Monkstown village, Co Cork. Photograph: Daragh Mc Sweeney/Provision

Bus Éireann extended its sympathies to the families of both deceased, describing the late Mr Wills, a father of two teenage children, as “a long-standing and greatly valued employee based at the Capwell depot” in Cork city.

Bus Éireann chief executive Stephen Kent thanked the emergency services who responded at the scene. “This is a very tragic event . . . our thoughts are with the families and communities affected by this loss.”

Bishop of Cork and Ross Fintan Gavin extended his sympathies to the families as well as to Fr Cronin’s fellow priests in both the diocese and St Patrick’s Missionary Society from Kiltegan in Co Wicklow, with whom he ministered in Nigeria for more than 25 years.

Missionary work

Bishop Gavin recalled that Fr Cronin had been ordained in 1979 and returned from Nigeria in 2004 to Ireland where, after promoting the missionary work of the church, he settled into parish life, being appointed to the harbour parishes of Passage West, Monkstown, Ringaskiddy and Shanbally in 2012.

“Fr Con will be remembered for his unique sense of humour and his openness to all people . . . He established a warm rapport both pastorally and personally with all to whom he ministered and all who had contact with him,” said Bishop Gavin.

Fr Cronin was a native of Kealkill in west Cork and was hugely popular in the harbour parishes where he was involved in community life, engaging with parishioners via podcasts during the pandemic. Locals held a candle-lit vigil and prayer service for him at a local park.

A video of him attempting a “floss dance” during First Holy Communions in 2019 went viral while he also featured in an RTÉ documentary, The Confessors, last year where he spoke about his reluctance to wear his clerical collar away from his parish to avoid verbal abuse over clerical abuse scandals.

Bus Éireann said it was putting in place support measures for employees affected.

“Safety has always been Bus Éireann’s priority and the company is also investigating the accident and co-operating fully with the relevant authorities,” said the company.

Monaghan fatality

Meanwhile, a man in his 20s has died following a road crash in Castleblayney, Co Monaghan.

Two cars collided on the R181 in the townland of Muldrumman at 6.40am on Tuesday morning. The driver of one car, a man in his 20s, was seriously injured and was taken to Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital, Drogheda, where he later died.

Gardaí in Castleblayney are appealing for any witnesses of the collision to come forward. Any road users who were travelling in the Muldrumman area between 6.15am and 7am this morning, and who may have camera footage (including dash-cam), are asked to make this footage available to gardaí.

Anyone with any information is asked to contact Castleblayney Garda station on 042 -9740668, the Garda Confidential Line on 1800 -666111, or any Garda station.