A COMMUNITY has been plunged into grief for the third time in less than a month following a horrific road traffic accident that claimed the lives of three teenagers.
The accident happened just before 11pm on Thursday night when the car in which four teenagers were travelling careered into a bridge at Ballymagan, Co Donegal, less than six miles outside Buncrana, and went off the road into a field.
The driver of the vehicle, Shane Cuffe (18), and Owen Patrick Doherty (18), both of Buncrana, were killed instantly.
Sixteen-year-old Aine O'Leary, from Skerries, Co Dublin, who was holidaying with relatives in Buncrana, was also pronounced dead at the scene.
Her cousin, 16-year-old Liz Anne O'Keefe, was critically injured in the crash.
Gardai confirmed that the teenager, who was yesterday being treated for multiple injuries, including two broken legs, at Altnagalvin Hospital, Derry, was the only one who had been been wearing her seat belt.
"The sole survivor only survived because she was wearing her seat belt," Superintendent Vincent O'Brien said.
This is the third fatal accident in the Buncrana area in the past three weeks. The accidents have left seven young people dead.
Yesterday morning a simple bunch of fresh flowers and football flags from Donegal and Dublin had been placed on the damaged bridge where the accident had taken place.
Fire and ambulance services from both sides of the border attended the scene and worked with gardai in removing the dead and injured from the wreckage.
Families and friends of the two deceased young men also converged on the scene.
"A large congregation of young boys and girls turned up at the scene and cried openly on the street as the remains of their colleagues and friends were taken to hospital and the morgue," Supt O'Brien said.
Local curate, Father Con McLaughlin, who administered to the dead and injured in the field, said that the nightmare would remain with the families for a long time.
"They had to watch as the bodies of their children were cut and pulled out of the twisted wreckage," he said.
Yesterday, gardai began house-to-house enquiries in an effort to establish the circumstances leading up to the tragedy.
The straight stretch of the Illies-to-Buncrana road where the accident occurred was normally quiet and driving conditions on Thursday night were almost ideal, Supt O'Brien said.
From the evidence at the scene, it appeared that the Vauxhall Astra in which the teenagers were travelling was going towards Buncrana when it crossed the narrow country road and hit with the parapet of a small bridge.
There were no obvious signs of brake marks on the road.
The car ended up on its side in a stream after crashing, with debris scattered for 20 yards. The driver of the vehicle, Shane Cuffe, had purchased the car just 10 days ago.
Supt O'Brien issued an emotional appeal to young people to slow down on the roads and wear their seat belts.
"There are far too many young people on the roads today driving at excessive speeds without their seat belts."