Two men arrested in connection with Cookstown disco deaths
Men aged 52 and 40 taken for questioning as police appeal for information
Books of condolence have been opened in memory of Morgan Barnard (L), Lauren Bullock and Connor Currie (R) who died following reports of a crush outside a St Patrick’s Day disco.
Detectives from the PSNI’s major investigation team investigating the deaths of the three teenagers who died in the crush outside the Greenvale Hotel in Cookstown, Co Tyrone, on St Patrick’s night have arrested two men.
Police confirmed on Tuesday evening that earlier in the day they arrested two men aged 52 and 40 “on suspicion of manslaughter”.
They were been taken to Dungannon PSNI custody suite for questioning.
Meanwhile, a senior police officer said it was fortunate that more teenagers weren’t killed in the crush. Detective Chief Superintendent Raymond Murray said there could have been more fatalities on the night but for some “people in the crowd working hard, and every credit to them, trying to get people who had fallen down back up on their feet”.
He said people tried to create space among the crowd to rescue people who were in danger.
He also said on Tuesday that young people who were underage seeking to enter the hotel disco should have no concerns about bringing information forward to the police.
He said that up to 400 young people were attempting to get into the holiday night disco when the accident happened.
He said police had traced the identities of more than 160 witnesses and had already spoken to a number of young people who were in the queue at the Greenvale Hotel on Sunday night when the crush happened.
“A number of parents have indicated they are concerned that their children, who may have been underage, were trying to enter a licensed premises,” said Detective Chief Superintendent Murray.
AMENDMENT: Detectives from PSNI Major Investigation Team investigating the deaths of three teenagers at the Greenvale Hotel in Cookstown on Saint Patrick’s Day have arrested two men aged 52 and 40 earlier today on suspicion of manslaughter. They are currently in custody.— PSNI (@PoliceServiceNI) March 19, 2019
“I want to reassure you, the focus of our investigation is not the age of people who were at the event - it is about trying to find answers for the families of the three teenagers who tragically died,” he said.
Books of condolence
On Tuesday scores of people signed books of condolence that were opened in Cookstown, Dungannon and Magherafelt, while many young people who knew the deceased went to the Greenvale Hotel to lay flowers at the security cordon and to provide comfort to each other.
Meanwhile, an international crowd control expert said that hospitality venue owners must ensure that they take action to try to avoid such accidents.
“Crowds are one of the most difficult things to deal with,” said Allan Jones, a former senior PSNI officer who is a director of Transformational Policing Associates.
As the PSNI continues its investigation into how the crush was caused Mr Jones said, “My advice to get out to the hospitality industry is: go and do a risk assessment for your venue, do it properly, get in experts if you need them.”
He said he did not want to speak specifically about the Cookstown accident but added, “You can manage crowds in all sorts of ways. Barriers is just one of the options; you can do it by personnel, by filtering - there are lots of different ways - but it does mean that in managing crowds you have to think of the risks that are there and put in place measures to reduce or minimise those risks.”
Eboney Johnston (16), who was outside the hotel on Sunday night, described the chaos of the crush. “People just started to fall but as one person fell another went down. As a person went to lift another person up they were pushing and shoving and another person would fall, which caused a build-up of everybody lying there.”
She added, “We are just all so lucky that it was not any of us. We nearly feel guilty because it was not us. We nearly feel bad - the families, what they are going through, it is awful.”
At a memorial service in the local Catholic church in Cookstown on Tuesday the principal of the Holy Trinity College in the town Isabel Russell urged students not to bottle up their feelings after the tragedy.
She advised, “Talk to the staff, talk to your parents, and let them know what is on your mind. Keep yourself busy, get on with your normal routine as best as you can.”
Councillor Sean McPeake, chairman of Mid Ulster District Council, said there had been an “outpouring of grief” in the local community, and that the books of condolence would help people express their sympathies with the victims’ families.
The incident unfolded at around 9.30pm on Sunday as several hundred people tried to get into the venue in Cookstown.
Emergency services attended within minutes and attempted to resuscitate the victim.
Security camera footage is being examined and police have appealed for videos captured by those present.
Owner Michael McElhatton gave CPR to the victims.
He was clearly emotional as he said: “We are all deeply shocked and saddened by the traumatic events of last night.
“We offer our heartfelt sympathies to the families and friends of the three young people who have lost their lives.”
A 16-year-old girl is in a stable condition in hospital, while another two teenagers were treated for injuries. –Additional reporting from PA