Victims' families come together to pray


RELATIVES of victims of Sunday night’s crash on Donegal’s Inishowen Peninsula came together last night to say prayers and lay flowers at the scene of the tragedy.

The crash site is just hundreds of yards from the home of James McEleney, one of eight men who died in the crash, the worst on Irish roads since records began nearly 50 years ago. He died along with six of his friends, when the VW Passat they were travelling in collided with a Toyota Corolla driven by 66-year-old Hugh Friel, who also lost his life.

Mr McEleney’s funeral will take place on Friday at 11am in St Mary’s in Clonmany while those of two of his friends, Mark McLaughlin and PJ McLaughlin, as well as that of Mr Friel, will take place today. Mr Friel’s funeral will take place in St Michael’s in Urris. Parish priest Father Neil McGoldrick was yesterday preparing for the funerals of Mark McLaughlin and PJ McLaughlin both in St Mura’s Church in Fahan today.

He said the two young men came from good families who had been “stunned into silence” following this tragedy. “The families are shattered. They’re taking it in but they’re not taking it in at the same time.” He described Mark as quiet and a willing worker while PJ was “outgoing, made friends easily and enjoyed life”.

Tomorrow, four more funerals will take place. Ceremonies for Damien McLaughlin and Eamonn McDaid will take pace at St Mary’s Church in Cockhill, while the funerals of Ciaran Sweeney and Paul Doherty will take place at St Mary’s Church in Clonmany.

Examinations of the crash scene continued for most of the day yesterday as investigators tried to establish the cause of the crash. The road was reopened to the public late yesterday evening after family members visited the scene.

Supt Kevin English of Buncrana gardaí said that, due to the complexity of this crash, it could be weeks before forensic tests are completed. Shaun Kelly, the driver of the vehicle in which the seven young men were travelling, is in a serious but stable condition in Letterkenny hospital. Supt English said that, due to the nature of his injuries, it would be some time before he is spoken to about the crash.

Members of the gardaí who were on the scene at the time of the crash have been making use of the counselling services available to them. Some are said to be traumatised having visited the crash scene on Sunday night.

The person who headed the fire brigade operation, Buncrana station officer James McKenna, was one of the first people to attend the scene of the crash. He said that all 15 members of the local retained fire brigade were being offered counselling.

“When we arrived at the scene nothing could have prepared us for what happened. In my 32 years’ service, it was the worst accident of its type I’ve ever had to deal with.”

The Health Service Executive (HSE) is providing counselling services to members of the public, particularly aiming to reach young people in the area. A 24-hour phone service is available on 087-2798412.

HSE mental health promotion officer for Donegal Anne Sheridan said: “During the first days, the wakes and funerals mean people are busy and have things to do but it is in the days to come that the grief will really hit people.”

Gardaí yesterday said that 56 people under the age of 27 had died on Donegal’s roads in the past five years.