Miracle escape as car hit by avalanche of slurry
A MOTHER of three had a miraculous escape after an avalanche of slurry fell from a hilltop farm on to her car, sweeping it across a road and into a field.
As Joan McLoughlin (62) was driving on the main Cappamore to Doon road in East Limerick, an estimated 50,000 gallons of slurry breached the retaining wall of a tank on an overhead lying farm.
The force of the wall of mud gained speed as it cascaded down the hill. It then burst through the road's embankment, before it picked up Ms McLoughlin's blue Ford Fiesta off the road and dumped it in a nearby field.
Speaking from their home in Cappamore, Ms McLoughlin's husband Hugh, said: "She could have been killed. I never saw anything like that in my life. It just carried the car."
A major clean-up operation was continuing yesterday involving Limerick City and County Councils, Inland Fisheries Ireland, and Limerick County Fire and Rescue Service. The freak incident occurred shortly before 10pm on Monday night.
Mr McLoughlin said: "She's not available (to speak) at the moment. She's stressed out. She was at the doctors.
"She suffered soft tissue damage. It's not simple at all. Joan is resting, she's upset.
"There was an open slurry tank and the wall collapsed. It came down (the hill) and hit the car and shoved it down the field, 20 yards or more," he added.
The dramatic events occurred about a mile from the McLoughlins' house. Mr McLoughlin said his wife was "lucky" her car stayed upright throughout her ordeal.
"It didn't turn (the car) over luckily enough. If it (the slurry) had gone into the car, it would have had her smothered."
He explained the surge of the slurry picked up the car off the ground and carried it in mid-air across the road and dumped it in the field.
A hearse and another car, which were travelling in front of Ms McLoughlin, just managed to avoid the spillage.
A number of houses nearby were also damaged and will need cosmetic work. Local man Pat Hoban was hailed a hero after coming across Mrs McLoughlin in the field.
"I heard a lady screaming up the road so, as I came out on to the road, I met all this slurry against me, but I thought it was only maybe a tractor or slurry that fell or toppled over on the road at the bend.
"But I could still hear the woman screaming in the field, so I knew there was somebody in there," he told Limerick's Live 95fm radio station. An environmental impact study is being carried out to ascertain if there is any long-term damage from the slurry spillage.
A spokesman for Limerick County Council said: "The council is confident it will be able to contain the slurry spill and minimise any environmental impact." The road reopened shortly before 4pm yesterday, 18 hours after the incident.
Carmel Kirby, Chief Fire Officer, Limerick County Fire Service, said: "As a precaution also last night, as well as closing the road, we shut down the water supply to Doon.
"The Doon water supply was later restored and the Environmental section of Limerick City and County Council are examining the situation at the moment."
A council spokesman added that the damaged slurry tank was estimated to be 50-60 years old and in poor condition.