A QUICK-thinking driver helped save the lives of a bus-load of pensioners by taking last-minute evasive action before a crash.
Frank McKelvey (58) was the driver of a coach which was involved in a collision with a car in south-west Donegal on Saturday which left 51 people in hospital.
All the pensioners onboard were treated for shock, with just three people held overnight for more serious injuries, including the 18-year-old driver of the car.
Yesterday Mr McKelvey described the moment he realised there was going to be a crash.
"I knew there was going to be a collision because the two vehicles were so close -- but I reckoned that if the car collided with the side of the bus instead of the front there was a chance of saving lives."
He said he swerved, and the car instead clipped the side of his coach, scraping along it and ending up 50 metres behind it.
"The bus ended up in a ditch on the left-hand side," he said. "I had to walk down to the bottom of the bus and open the end door for people to get out. Everybody remained calm and myself and a few helpers and people who arrived at the scene started helping the old folk out."
Letterkenny General Hospital implemented an emergency plan, with staff on leave brought it to help treat the 49 pensioners for shock.
Bus owner Bernard McGuinness said Mr McKelvey's experience had saved lives and hailed him as a hero.
"A doctor at the hospital told some of the pensioners that they owed their lives to Frank," said Mr McGuinness.
"This accident would have been an awful tragedy and lives would have been lost were it not for the reactions and ability of Frank. He's a hero as far everyone is concerned," he said.
Sean Murphy, general manager at Letterkenny General Hospital, said: "The overall hospital response worked extremely well, and I would like to thank staff for the prompt response, especially those who came in off duty.
"All patients have now been treated and cleared from the Emergency Department, and the hospital has resumed normal services."
The pensioners were all from the St Johnston and Carrigans areas of east Donegal, on a day out in the west of the county organised by a community group.
They had just spent the afternoon in Donegal town and were on their way to a function in Ardara when the incident happened at the Ardaghey Crossroads, a few miles from their intended destination.