Monday 14 October 2019

Hotel owner among two arrested in St Patrick's Day disco crush probe

Arrested: Greenvale Hotel owner Michael McElhatton
Arrested: Greenvale Hotel owner Michael McElhatton

Robin Schiller, Michael McHugh and David Young

A hotel owner has been arrested on suspicion of manslaughter after three teenagers died in a crush outside a St Patrick's Day disco.

Michael McElhatton (52) is the owner of the Greenvale Hotel, in Cookstown, Co Tyrone. His spokeswoman confirmed last night that he was one of two men arrested by the PSNI.

It is understood the other suspect, aged 40, is a member of the nightspot's door staff.

Students Lauren Bullock (17), from Donaghmore, Connor Currie (16) and Morgan Barnard (17), both from Dungannon, in Co Tyrone, perished in the crush outside the hotel on Sunday night, with eyewitnesses describing chaotic scenes.

James Bradley, father of Morgan, said the loss of his son had left his family devastated and heartbroken.

The teenager's mother, Maria Barnard, is 17 weeks pregnant.

"I'm not sure how we'll get through, hour by hour, day by day.

"Maria, me, the family, we're devastated, broken," said Mr Bradley.

Speaking outside the family home at Springdale, in Dungannon, yesterday, Mr Bradley also revealed how Morgan's mother was struggling to come to terms with the death of her son.

"She has chosen not to believe it at the moment.

"The first we knew something was wrong was when we got a phone call from his cousin saying there had been a terrible accident at the Greenvale Hotel.

"We made our way to the hospital and we knew by the reaction of the police there was someone dead in there. We knew there was something terribly wrong.

"I can't really say anything more right now. Everyone knows we've lost a son and there are no more words we can find right now."

Up to 400 people were present as the tragedy unfolded, and detectives said it was fortunate more people were not killed.

Police confirmed some young people were trampled underfoot as they waited to enter the disco.

The PSNI said last night that detectives investigating the deaths of the three teenagers arrested two men on suspicion of manslaughter.

Yesterday, tearful well-wishers embraced tightly after laying flowers at a shrine to the dead beside a police cordon.

Books of condolence across the county filled with page upon page of tributes for the three students.

"This is an event that should have been a celebration and it has turned into every parent's worst nightmare," PSNI Detective Chief Superintendent Raymond Murray said.

He said that officers had already spoken to more than 160 witnesses but they believe as many as 400 could have been at the event.

Youngsters will not face police action for being under-age if they come forward, prosecutors pledged, in a bid to encourage people to tell their stories to officers.

Chief Supt Murray praised those in the crowd who worked hard to get party-goers who had fallen down back on their feet when others were tumbling on top of them.

Irish Independent

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