A FATHER was undergoing medical treatment last night after sparking a garda alert when he disappeared with his three children.
A major search was carried out by gardai in Co Wicklow after the man unexpectedly collected the three girls from a national school.
All were later located after gardai pursued the father's car before it crashed into a road sign.
The children were unharmed and the man was taken to Wicklow garda station while further inquiries were being carried out.
The man, who had been caring for the children, had earlier dropped them to school.
But about an hour later he returned and asked the teachers to send out the girls.
The teachers are understood to have been concerned about the request and queried why the girls were being collected before the man left with his children.
He drove away in his own car but later switched to a blue Nissan Almera, which he had borrowed.
Gardai launched a search operation and issued a public appeal for help, asking the public not to approach the driver but to immediately contact Wicklow or any other garda station, or telephone the 999 emergency number instead.
A description of the driver and the registration number of the vehicle were also issued, while roadblocks were set up and the air support unit was also called.
As gardai stepped up their search, one of their patrol crews spotted the Almera on the N11 near Rathnew village and went in pursuit of the car.
The car left the N11 on the slip-way at the Ballinabarney junction, outside Rathnew where the driver lost control of the vehicle, collided with a road sign, before coming to a halt on a roundabout.
An eyewitness said: "It was a serious wallop and it's lucky that no one was injured. The children seemed a bit shaken but were otherwise fine."
The children's father was taken to Wicklow garda station and detained under the Mental Health Act.
Parents collecting their children from the school yesterday afternoon said they were shocked to learn of the earlier incident.
One mother said she had heard the media alert on the radio but had not realised that her daughter's school was involved.
A nearby resident said he had seen a garda van outside the school but "thought nothing of it until I heard the alert on the news".