Tributes have been paid to the solace and compassion of the priest who tended to the devastated community of Creeslough, Co. Donegal, following the blast that claimed 10 lives and injured eight earlier this month.
As investigators prepare to use 3D modeling to recreate the explosion virtually, there has been massive online and newspaper letters page appreciation of Father John Joe Duffy’s pastoral care for the grieving families and the recovery teams. He officiated at most of the funerals.
The priest, who has been Creeslough curate for five years, arrived on the scene of the blast at Applegreen service station and adjoining apartments shortly after the explosion on October 7 as people frantically scrabbled through the rubble in search of their loved ones.
Many later voiced their appreciation of his exemplary pastoral care, as he undertook the most difficult and challenging time of his priesthood. One person wrote, “Creeslough are very lucky to have him at this time; caring and compassionate.”
During one of the many funeral homilies, Duffy noted: “We journey through life on a path we neither design nor control. We can shape the path with our decisions and choices, but the final direction of life is beyond our control.”
One correspondent wrote in the Irish Independent: “Such words of wisdom from this brave and caring cleric whose life, and those of his parishioners, was thrown into utter chaos!”
This week experts investigating the cause of the explosion in Creeslough will use 3D modeling to recreate the explosion virtually.
Initial indications suggest the blast was caused by an air-like gas which was being stored in an apartment above the petrol station. Nothing has been uncovered so far to suggest foul play was a factor.
The investigation is being led by crime scene managers from the Garda Technical Bureau, assisted by experts from Ireland’s energy and water economic utility regulation and the Health and Safety Authority. In addition, international experts specializing in gas and oil explosions, including specialists from Norwegian-based consultancy DNV, have been drafted in.
The last of the 10 victims’ funerals took place on Saturday when Robert Garwe and his five-year-old daughter Shauna Flanagan Garwe, found beneath the rubble with arms wrapped around each other, were laid to rest side by side.
President Michael D. Higgins traveled to the village for most of the funerals, including those on Saturday.
He noted, “The funerals are over, but all the vacant spaces are there; all the losses that were experienced. Something new will have to come in its place.”