Donegal remains devastated by the aftermath of the worst car crash in Ireland’s history, in which 8 men were killed.
James McEleney, one of the victims, was only 23 when the car he and six others were travelling in collided with another car, killing an old age pensioner returning from playing bingo in the process.
McEleney’s home village of Clonmany came to a standstill on Monday and businesses near his home closed out of respect for the young man’s death. There will be many more marks of respect and funerals to come in the next few days as the remaining passengers are buried.
The line of mourners who had come to pay McEleney his final respects stretched for well over a mile around the Donegal village as locals and visitors alike paid tribute to the young man’s generosity, kind heart, and gentle nature.
The accident was the worst ever car crash in the State’s history. A major Garda investigation has been mounted to determine exactly what happened.
Although all seven passengers were killed, the driver of the car remained in a stable condition in hospital.
The car being driven was a Volkswagen Passat saloon, there were three passengers in the front and five in the back at the time of the crash. All but the driver died instantly.
Both the young mens’ car and the pensioners car were carried off the road into a ditch and eventually down a slope.
Prime Minister Brian Cowen, speaking from New York, described the accident as "appalling" and sent sympathy to the bereaved families.
“I was very saddened indeed to hear this morning from the Minister for Justice about the appalling accidents we have had in Ireland," Cowen said.
"Overnight and over the weekend we have had 10 losses of lives, eight in one particular accident in Donegal and one in Galway and one in Tipperary.
"It's very, very sad and I just want to convey my sincere sympathies in the first instance to the families of those who have died.
"It just reinforces the need for people to take very great care on our roads. We have thankfully over the last 10 years seen a reduction of about 40pc in the numbers of road deaths but we still have appalling tragedies such as this occurring," he said.
The Justice Minister, Dermot Ahern, called the crash “horrific” and said that it reinforces the need for better road safety education.
Assistant Garda (police) Commissioner Kieran Kenny, speaking at a press conference held in Buncrana Garda Station, said that the police were investigating an incident that had occurred moments before in which an elderly lady escaped injury when her white Renault Megane was struck by the black Passat. She was uninjured in the incident."It would appear at this time that the two incidents were part of the one action," said the Assistant Commissioner.
It’s also likely that some of the dozens of emergency workers who attended the scene will require counselling for the horrific carnage they encountered.
Buncrana Fire Officer James McKenna told the Irish Independent that they were told to prepare themselves for multiple injuries, trapped casualties and possibly several deaths.
"When we arrived at the scene nothing could have prepared us for what happened. In my 32 years of service it was the worst accident of its type I've ever had to deal with. We were working at the coalface of an unprecedented tragedy," he said.