Laois crash tragedy: Survivor Jamie (16) sent text message from stricken vehicle looking for help
Three friends die in road crash after leaving 21st birthday party
Three young people, including a mother of one, were killed when their car smashed into a heavy road sign as they drove to an all-night service station after a 21st birthday party.
Martin Brophy (20), Orla Curry (20) and Angela Kelly (35) all died in the crash outside Rathdowney, Co Laois in the early hours of yesterday.
Parish priest Fr Martin Delaney said he had never seen anything like it in his 29 years as a priest.
"I'm 29 years a priest and I've never witnessed anything like it to be honest. When I got there the firefighters were already there", he told the Irish Mirror.
Angela's nephew, Jamie (16), a back-seat passenger in the car, suffered serious injures and was rushed to Tullamore General Hospital. His condition was described as stable last night.
Fr Delaney said the teenager was able to send a message of distress from inside the stricken vehicle.
"The young chap had a miraculous escape. He was able to text a message of help from inside the car. He got out and went across the road and raised the alarm."
In a tragic coincidence, it is understood that Jamie went to the home of a man whose son was killed in a road traffic accident on the same road on Christmas Day in 2008. Kevin Bergin (18) died in the early hours of Christmas Day 2008 after being struck by a vehicle outside his home.
Yesterday's single-vehicle accident occurred shortly after 3am at Middlemount on the Abbeyleix-Rathdowney road.
Tragically Mr Brophy, who was driving the car, lost his mother to cancer on St Stephen's Day 2013.
Fr Delaney said that the family was just beginning to get their lives back together after the loss when the tragedy occurred.
"Young people have gathered to support each other in their own way. It's a very local thing. The volunteer firefighters are all local people and they were realising it was their own neighbours."
"The Kelly family are focused on their lad in Tullamore Hospital. The other families are reeling. They have to face the practical arrangements."
Both female fatalities - one was in the front passenger seat and the other in the rear of the car - suffered critical injuries and were pronounced dead before they could be transferred to hospital.
Gardaí closed the road for several hours yesterday while a forensic team attempted to piece together the cause of the accident.
All three were well-known in the area and Ms Kelly was the mother of a one-year-old girl.
The group had been at a 21st earlier in the night and it is understood they had decided to go to a 24-hour shop afterwards.
Local representatives told the Irish Independent that it was "a black day, not just for Rathdowney but for the entire county of Laois".
"The entire community is in shock after this - it is an awful tragedy, particularly because it involves families that are held in the highest respect and esteem locally," Cllr John King said.
Cllr John Joe Fennelly said there had been a number of serious accidents on stretches of the Abbeyleix-Rathdowney road over recent years.
"It is a terrible accident and my heart goes out to the families involved," the Fianna Fáil official said.
"All we can do now is do everything we can to support them as a community and to keep them in our prayers.
"But it is a desperate tragedy and everyone is numbed by it," he said.
Local parish priest Fr Martin Delaney paid tribute to the "incredible work" of the gardaí and fire service.
"It's brought a terrible air of sadness to the area," Fr Delaney added.