Tyrone disco deaths: ‘It started with pushing… then the crushing started’
Teenager describes terrifying crush at Cookstown St Patrick’s Day disco
The terrifying scene at a St Patrick’s Day disco in Co Tyrone, where three teenagers died in a crush, has been described in a post on social media by a girl reportedly caught up in the incident.
“It started with pushing and shoving but everyone was still laughing and having a good time. Then the literal crushing started,” the girl wrote in a lengthy post, shared widely on Facebook.
“The people on the outside of this line were so determined to get in they felt the need to not only push us against the wall, but push with all their strength. No matter how much we screamed and pushed back, there was no movement”, she wrote.
Three teenagers were killed in the incident, as several hundred people were trying to get into the venue at the Greenvale Hotel in Cookstown after being dropped off by buses.
A 17-year-old girl, named locally as Lauren Bullock, and two boys, Connor Currie aged 16 and, and Morgan Barnard, aged 17, died, one at the scene and two later in hospital, police confirmed.
People struggled to get off the ground and there was confusion in the immediate aftermath between 9pm and 10pm on Sunday, the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) has said.
In her Facebook post the girl describes seeing two of her friends falling to the ground in the crush of people, and being unable to get back up.
“I could still see people laughing with no idea what was going on. At this point I thought my friends were going to die, I was standing up and I couldn’t breathe so I couldn’t imagine how they felt,” she said.
“I was hysterically screaming for people to move but it was only the people around me who knew the seriousness,” she said.
In the girl’s Facebook post, she describes falling to the ground, and landing on top of a number of other people, unable to get back up.
“As I looked down I could see multiple bodies underneath me and as I looked up I could see multiple bodies on top of me. It was the most traumatic, frightening and stressful moment of my life. I was looking about for my friends and trying to keep my head up,” she wrote.
“People were scratching, biting and grabbing anything they could to pull themselves up to breath (sic). I think that’s what really shows the seriousness of it all, people were literally fighting for their lives,” the girl wrote.
If it wasn’t for the young people doing the right thing and ringing the police, the situation could’ve been so much worse
At some point, other young people began to drag people out of the crush of bodies, she said.
“My leg was caught underneath someone and my hair was caught somewhere else, my jeans were pulled down around my thighs and my jersey above my head, but I was getting pulled out,” she said.
The social media post had been shared over 11,000 times on Monday afternoon.
The girl went on to describe a scene of panic as the young people attending the disco scrambled to find friends they were attending the social event with after the crush.
“I ran about frantically. I seen a young boy lying motionless trying to be resuscitated by the ambulance crew,” she wrote in the Facebook post.
“If it wasn’t for the young people doing the right thing and ringing the police, the situation could’ve been so much worse,” she said.
The mother of two teenage boys who attended the event on Sunday night spoke of her terror as she tried to establish their whereabouts.
Emma Heatherington (42), the mother of two boys who were in the queue to enter the hotel, said she “felt sick” when she learned on social media that parents were being asked to come to the hotel to collect their children.
Ms Heatherington told RTÉ’s One O’Clock news she eventually made contact with her two children by mobile phone and although they were “quite traumatised” they were safe.
My initial reaction of course when I saw the call out on Facebook to get your children home was sick
However, she said her daughter who was at home had “come down the stairs screaming” because she had learned on social media that the girl who died had been a friend from their home village of Donaghmore.
Recounting what her sons experienced she said: “They were in the queue and there was some commotion at front and they were asked to step back. Before long the police were on the scene and ambulance were on the scene and it was frantic.
“It was all very quick, very bad, very crazy and surreal. They don’t know what happened. My youngest boy Adam, he saw a boy on the ground and saw the ambulance crew trying to resuscitate him. It turned out the boy was from his year in school so as you can imagine that was extremely traumatic for him to witness that.”
Ms Heatherington said there were rumours all night about the identities of those who died and the news broke on Monday morning that a young girl who was friends with her daughter was among the dead.
“I will never forget the sound of the door opening last night. My initial reaction of course when I saw the call out on Facebook to get your children home was sick. I felt sick. I couldn’t even hold the phone for shaking.”
I am devastated as well for the owners and staff who witnessed what happened last night
Ms Heatherington told of phoning one son who was at a nearby McDonald’s fast food restaurant, and he was fine, but “he just said ‘mummy it is not good’ and then he got cut off. I finally got through to the older brother and he was okay, he was on the way home. The sound of the door opening was a relief.”
“I thought that was over and then my daughter came screaming down the stairs to say her friend was dead.”
‘Devastated for the owners’
She said teenagers in Donaghmore just wanted to be together and were hugging each other “crying, just distraught”. Ms Heatherington also expressed concern for the people involved with the family-owned Greenvale Hotel, remarking that she herself had very good memories of attending events there as a teenager.
“I am devastated as well for the owners and staff who witnessed what happened last night,” she said.
Dr Nigel Ruddell, medical director of the Northern Ireland ambulance service, said it had started receiving calls at about 9.26pm on Sunday . He said it was “obvious to us that a number of patients were critically ill” and six emergency ambulances, two rapid response cars and four emergency response doctors and a number of ambulance personnel were dispatched to the scene, the first arriving within five minutes.
He said there was “a large crowd of young people”, and it “was evident it was a popular event”.
He said a fourth patient in hospital was expected to make a full recovery, while a fifth was treated at the scene and discharged from there.
PSNI assistant chief constable Mark Hamilton confirmed the deaths of three teenagers and said the fourth victim , a 16-year-old girl, was in a stable condition in hospital.
Speaking at the scene, Mr Hamilton said that “preliminary investigations show there was a crush towards the front door of this hotel”.
“There looks like there was a large crowd of young people pushing up against the hotel.”
Mr Hamilton appealed for anyone with images of the incident to give it to the police, and not post it on social media.