Community left reeling as lifelong 'outstanding and warm' friends killed in 'freak' crash
Maureen Dooley (55) and her close pal Deirdre Kilmartin (54) were on their daily walk when they were killed in a freak accident
A dark cloud hung over Ballinasloe, Co Galway, yesterday as locals struggled to come to terms with the tragic deaths of two lifelong friends in a road accident.
Secondary school maths teacher Maureen Dooley (55) and her close pal Deirdre Kilmartin (54) were on their daily walk when they were killed in a freak accident.
They were hit by a car that had been in collision with another car on the Station Road at around 5.40pm on Thursday.
They were pronounced dead at the scene.
When word broke that night of the accident, the community feared the victims would be local. Yesterday, as their identities became known, local people were described as being "numb".
The loop that the two are understood to have been walking - around 5km - is a popular route for walkers in the town.
The road was sealed off by a Garda forensics team until 4pm yesterday, with post-mortem examinations on the women also taking place.
Many locals said they'd seen the women only minutes beforehand. A wave and a smile was the usual greeting from the popular duo, who were both married with children - Ms Kilmartin with two and Ms Dooley with three.
Ms Dooley's husband Aidan played for Roscommon in the 1980 All-Ireland football final. His shot late on in the match would have beaten the mighty Kerry but for a miraculous stop from the late Páidí Ó Sé.
Ms Kilmartin, meanwhile, worked in the local vet clinic in the centre of the town. It closed for the day, not just as a mark of respect, but because her colleagues were understandably too heartbroken to work.
A note in a black ribbon on the front door read: "Due to our inexpressible grief at the death of our wonderful colleague and friend, Deirdre, the shop will remain closed."
Some flowers at the scene had a simple message of "Rest in Peace ladies".
Sean Tully, a neighbour of the two women over the years, said they had gone to primary school together.
"They were two beautiful girls and just great friends," he said. "As people, they were outstanding, they were very warm, friendly, outgoing girls. They come from a background of community.
"My brother and his wife waved at them [on Thursday]. They were great friends and they walked everywhere in town, covered every part of the town," he added.
Asked how heavily involved they'd been in the community, Mr Tully said they had always been "in the background, helping out".
"We're locals, but you'd get the big wave from them when they were passing," he said.
Local councillor Dermot Connolly knew both women.
Mr Connolly had spoken to a woman in the town who had also seen the pair walking on the evening of the accident.
"It's devastation everywhere you go," he said. "It's shocking news, it's something you never want to visit your community.
"Your heart would bleed for them all, really," he added.
In a separate incident, two people were injured in a multi-vehicle accident in Cork.
The collision occurred on the N71 Bantry-Bandon road outside Rosscarbery at around 8pm last night.
It is understood three vehicles were involved in the collision which occurred at Connonagh.
Last night, gardaí closed the portion of the N71 road involved to facilitate the work of the emergency services.
The two injured people were transferred by ambulance to Cork University Hospital (CUH).
Meanwhile, in Mayo five people, including a baby, were airlifted to hospital after a serious collision yesterday at 3.15pm.
Gardaí rushed to Belmullet after receiving a call about a collision involving a car and a van.
The driver of the van, a man in his 40s, suffered serious injuries in the crash at Muinhin Bridge.
The four occupants of the car - two women in their 60s, a woman in her 20s and a baby - suffered non-serious injuries.
The five people injured were all airlifted to Mayo University Hospital.