A MAN who died in a head-on collision that claimed two lives was only making a short trip to the shops.
A taxi driver who was the other victim of the first fatal crash of the new year had just dropped off a fare and was heading back towards town.
Terence Beagan (43) and taxi driver Gearoid O Scolai (47) were killed instantly in a head-on collision at Ballynahaglish, on the main Foxford to Ballina road shortly before 5am.
Both men were travelling alone.
The accident was witnessed by ambulance personnel who happened to be travelling behind Mr Beagan.
Mr Beagan had been ringing in the new year with his partner at the Mount Falcon hotel where they were both staying. It is understood that he had left the hotel just a few minutes before in his Mercedes to pick up some cigarettes at a local shop when the accident occurred.
Mr O Scolai had just dropped off a fare that he had picked up earlier at the same hotel and was driving his Skoda Octavia back into Ballina town when the crash happened.
With an address at Childers Heights, Ballina, he was originally from Dublin, and had lived in the town for around 12 years. Widely known as 'Scully', he was a popular figure in the local community.
He had separated from his wife, Catherine, in the past year and had a grown-up son and daughter in their 20s from a previous relationship.
Mr O Scolai was a fervent supporter of the Irish language and culture. He was also a keen fisherman and owned his own boat.
He regularly worked nights as a taxi driver, having set up his own firm, Celtic Cabs.
A close friend, Michael Fleming, said Mr O Scolai was a very experienced driver and he had been deeply shocked to hear of his death.
"He was a good man and the kind of friend that you could call on at any time," he said.
Mr Beagan was a director at a recording studio, Loop Studios, based at North Lotts in Dublin. He had also helped set up a local radio station for the Ringsend and Irishtown Community Centre (RICC) in 2011.
RICC assistant manager Barbara Doyle said she was in shock at Mr Beagan's death, saying he had been very dynamic and a "brilliant part of the team" who had helped to train up the young people to use the equipment and run the station.
"He had great expertise and we were very lucky to get him," she said.
The Beagan family gathered at their family home in Ravensdale, Dundalk, Co Louth, yesterday afternoon but were too upset to talk about their loss.
Mr Beagan is survived by his mother Maeve, his father Terence, brother Michael and sister Joanne.
A family friend described him as a "gentleman".
He said the Beagan family were in shock after the tragic accident.
He spoke very highly of the family, who run a local customs business in Dundalk.
"They are devastated. They are a nice family. If I were to select neighbours, I couldn't have selected better people," he said.
Fire brigade personnel used cutting equipment to free the drivers from their crushed vehicles. Both men were pronounced dead at the scene by a doctor.
The victims were taken to the mortuary at Mayo General Hospital in Castlebar where post-mortem examinations will take place.
The N26 between Ballina and Swinford remained closed for most of yesterday as forensic crash investigators examined the vehicles involved and the crash scene.
By Nicola Anderson, Fiona Ellis and Tom Shiel