Tuesday 18 December 2018

Amazing escape for family as lightning strike destroys home

The destroyed upper floor of the home in Lettermore, Co Galway
The destroyed upper floor of the home in Lettermore, Co Galway
A view of the house from the front

Brian McDonald and Eimear Ni Bhraonain

A FAMILY told yesterday of their amazing escape from a blazing home after it was struck by a massive bolt of lightning and destroyed.

The house was left a smouldering wreck after it was struck and went on fire during ferocious storms on Thursday.

The still-shocked Berry family, from Lettermore, Co Galway, yesterday described the sound as being like a bomb rocking the house.

The scene was one of devastation yesterday with piled-up household items, including charred pictures, a blasted bathtub and a stairwell looking up at the open sky.


Sabina Berry and her son, Patrick (19), were at home when the summer weather sparked a thunderstorm across Connemara on Thursday.

Her husband, PJ, was out at work and daughter Sabina Kate was in Galway city at the time.

Patrick was downstairs recovering from a broken leg, sustained playing football, when the roof of the family's dormer home at Gorumna Island in Lettermore caved in.

Sabina was on her way upstairs as an enormous bang rocked the house. She ran downstairs to check on Patrick and then went back upstairs to see what had happened.

"The end bedroom is my daughter's and it was as if a bomb had hit it. The top of one corner of the wall was gone, the Velux window had been blown out and there was glass and smoke everywhere," Sabina recalled.

Her first thought was to go and get water to put out the fire but, suddenly, one of the hall lights burst into flames.

"My son was trying to come up the stairs and I knew immediately that I needed to get him out because of his broken leg. There were flames everywhere.

"It would have been a totally different story if my daughter had been at home. If she was in her room, she would have been killed. Thank God she was away in Galway on FCA duty in Renmore Barracks.

"When we got out of the house, we saw that the chimney on my daughter's side of the house had been knocked off and it had landed on my car and banjaxed it. The fire spread throughout the house. You could hear the crackling and then smell it and the flames were coming out.

"We were standing there so helpless as the fire brigade is an hour and 15 minutes away in Galway. There was nothing we could do," Sabina said.

Mother and son wanted to get back into their home to rescue precious mementos and possessions, but neighbours who had arrived to lend support would not hear of it.


Two units of Galway Fire Brigade eventually arrived and succeeded in putting out the blaze, but not before massive damage had been done.

"We are all fine, but if my daughter had been in that room we wouldn't care about the house. If there is a fire in your home, don't try to save anything, just get yourself out. At the end of the day, it is all that matters."

Sabina paid tribute to the firemen, but she wants Galway Co Council to provide a proper fire service in Connemara.

"They got here as quickly as they could, but it just emphasises how those of us living in Connemara do not have an adequate fire service," Sabina added.

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