Five dead in worst tragedy in the history of Dublin Bus
Published 22/02/2004 | 00:11
CHARLIE MALLON THESE are the scenes of utter carnage which hit Dublin city centre yesterday claiming five lives.
Three women and two men died at the scene.
Eyewitness Fergal Doyle said: "I was walking past the hotel when I heard an awful bang. I looked back and saw a couple of people being dragged underneath the bus and a postbox being taken out as well. I'm sorry, I'm in a bit of shock after seeing the whole thing. It was very, very tragic."
The front area of the Clarence Hotel became a hospital ward for the afternoon as fire brigade ambulance crews tended to the injured in the lobby.
From inside the Clarence I saw a fire crew eventually free one middle-aged man from under the bus on the footpath.
They strapped him to a stretcher just outside the front door and attached a breathing apparatus as a wailing ambulance waited to bring him to hospital.
At the same time an elderly woman, with blood pouring from a cut on her right arm, was having it bandaged by a fireman in the doorway.
Inside in the foyer a middle-aged woman, obviously in a state of severe shock, sat on a chair crying her eyes out.
Another fireman tried to comfort her and asked if she was injured in any way.
The tears flowed and she did not answer as hotel staff brought her a glass of water.
Outside the front door the main rescue operation was going on as specialist equipment was used to free those pinned under the bus.
But for some it was obviously too late - while others had suffered very severe head and internal injuries.
There are conflicting accounts as to how the accident happened at Wellington Quay at 1.25pm outside the Clarence Hotel, which is owned by the U2 rock group.
Passengers were queueing to board a parked No 66 bus at Wellington Quay when a second out-of-service duble-decker mounted the pavement on the inside of the No 66 and drove into the queue. There was no indication of a collision either on the street or with the parked bus.
All the dead and most of the seriously injured were trapped under the bus on the pavement.
They are investigating the possibility that the driver of the out-of-service bus might have suffered a heart attack or some other kind of seizure.
Both drivers, one a non-national, were being treated in hospital last night. Both drivers were also interviewed by gardai. An incident centre has been established at Pearse Street Garda station, where a major accident investigation, led by Chief Supt Bill Donohue and Supt Tom Conway, is underway.
Three Dublin hospitals which dealt with the emergency said there were five dead, including a non-national believed to be a Ukrainian. Another of the dead is said to be the daughter of a senior garda. None of the names were released last night, but all had been identified.
The hospitals treated 16 injured people. Three were described as having major injuries but were stable and not critical; three were admitted with non-life-threatening injuries; ten had minor injuries but two went home last night.
The bus mounted the footpath directly outside the Clarence Hotel, several hundred yards from O'Connell Street Bridge.
Staff from the Clarence Hotel did all they could to assist the injured. General Manager Robert Vaneerde said last night: "It was a horrible, horrible accident. There were so many people involved. Our staff did what they could do to help, bringing blankets and giving people tea. Bono is abroad at the minute so I don't think he is aware of the accident, but when he hears his thoughts will be with the families of the dead and injured."
A Dublin Bus spokeswoman said: "This really is a very dark day for us." She went on to describe the tragedy as a "devastating accident, the worst in the history of Dublin Bus".
She said it appeared that an out-of-service bus painted in the new company yellow and blue livery - travelling out of the city, apparently at speed - mounted the pavement, smashing down litter bins and a post box before ploughing into the queue of people about to board a parked 66 bus. The 66 bus services Chapelizod, Palmerstown, Leixlip, Lucan and Maynooth.
Wellington Quay, one of the main arteries out of Dublin, remained closed to traffic last night as garda investigations continued. The accident happened on the one-way street that runs along the south bank of the River Liffey. The three-lane road is perpetually overloaded with a mix of cars, buses and even 18-wheeler trucks that use the road to reach western Dublin and the motorway links beyond to Cork, Limerick and Galway.
By day, the area around the accident is packed with tourists and shoppers using Dublin's most famous pedestrian crossing, the Ha'penny Bridge, which links the tourist quarter of Temple Bar with the northside's major pedestrian shopping area, Henry Street.
The bus that mounted the path was not carrying any passengers and the driver was returning to the depot at Conyngham Road depot when the tragedy happened at around 1.20pm.
"They hadn't a chance," one traumatised eyewitness told a fire brigade ambulance crew. "They were were knocked down like ninepins."
Dublin Bus was in contact with international accident investigators last night and is setting up a investigation committee under managing director Dr Allen Westwell. The company said they have also organised designated staff to deal directly with the families of the dead and injured and have arranged trauma and bereavement counselling.
The carnage happened on one of the busiest Saturdays of the year, in one of the busiest parts of the city.
Thousands of Welsh rugby fans were in town for the weekend, in addition to the throngs swarming through Temple Bar just round the corner from the scene of the crash.
Fleets of ambulances raced to the scene along with Garda patrols on every possible mode of transport. They arrived on horseback, bikes, motorbikes, and patrol cars while the Garda helicopter monitored the situation from the air.
Two hours after the horrific crash, the scene was visited by the Taoiseach Bertie Ahern and the Transport Minister Seamus Brennan.
Last night, the Taoiseach said: "It was with great distress that I learned about those who have lost their lives and the many others who have been injured, going about their daily lives in Dublin city centre today. I wish to extend my sincerest sympathies to their families at this time of terrible loss."
President Mary McAleese expressed her shock a the tragic accident. "My thoughts and prayers are with the families of those who have been so tragically killed in Dublin today and with those who have been injured in this dreadful event in the midst of our capital," she said.
Last night, the chairman of CIE, John Lynch, extended his sympathy to the relatives of those killed and injured in the tragedy. He said it had been a dark and tragic day for the company which had never experienced an accident of this magnitude.
Lord Mayor of Dublin, Royston Brady said: "I wish to extend my heartfelt sympathy to those who lost loved ones in this afternoon's bus crash in the city centre. I also hope that those who were injured will have a speedy recovery."
Two women were brought in dead to the Mater Hospital. Two people were admitted with non-life-threatenening injuries, and two attended with minor injuries which did not require admission.
Three people were brought in dead to St Vincent's Hospital. One injured person was admitted and was described as "stable, not critical" last night.
Three people with major injuries were brought in to St James's Hospital. Last night, they were all described as "stable, not critical". Eight people with minor injuries were admitted, two of whom were able to go home last night.