Monday 23 July 2018

'I saw people flying into the air' - Seven seriously hurt as priest's car crashes into crowd at funeral

Gardai examine the scene of the crash in the grounds of the Church of the Immaculate Conception and St. Killian in Clondalkin Village.
Gardai examine the scene of the crash in the grounds of the Church of the Immaculate Conception and St. Killian in Clondalkin Village.

Robin Schiller

A RETIRED priest may have lost control of his car before it crashed into a crowd of people gathered outside a church for a funeral.

Several were left seriously injured and with broken bones after the car ploughed into mourners at the Immaculate Conception Church, in Clondalkin, Dublin, yesterday.

Four people were still being treated in hospital for their injuries last night.

A probe aims to determine if the driver of the white Toyota, Fr Denis Foley (89), lost control of his car before it crashed into mourners. A Garda investigation is under way into the circumstances surrounding the crash, but at this stage it is being treated as an accident.

Gardai at the scene of the crash in the grounds of the Church of the Immaculate Conception and St. Killian in Clondalkin Village.
Gardai at the scene of the crash in the grounds of the Church of the Immaculate Conception and St. Killian in Clondalkin Village.

The incident happened shortly after 10am.

Seven people, three women and four men, were seriously injured with one eyewitness describing the scene as being “littered” with casualties.

A number of off-duty firemen who were in attendance at the funeral also rushed to help several casualtiesfollowing the incident.

The retired curate, who is understood to have ceased working as parish priest in Walkinstown some 13 years ago, was last night being treated in St James’s Hospital.

A further six people suffered serious injuries, including broken bones, and were brought to different hospitals across the city.

Local sources said 64-year-old Martin Cawley, from the Kingswood area, suffered serious injuries to his legs and lungs during the incident.

Mr Cawley was rushed to St James’s Hospital where he was described as having suffered serious injuries, including a suspected punctured lung.

A large fleet of emergency vehicles responded to the scene after receiving reports of a car driving into a crowd of people.

Desperately

The Dublin Fire Brigade dispatched 10 vehicles to the scene, while several Garda units and senior officers also attended.

Larry Mooney, from Blackrock, Co Dublin, said he saw people desperately attempt to lift the car off a number of pedestrians who were caught underneath.

“It sounded like the church was actually collapsing, it was an unbelievable sound, and then I saw all of the people just rushing back.

“Now, it was only about 20ft away from where I was standing. And then I discovered it was a car with all of the people packed underneath it,” he told the Irish Independent.

“There was also a man there who broke his thumb as well, a number of people were very seriously injured.

“It was a hell of a shock. There were nearly 200 people standing outside the church when this all happened,” Mr Mooney added.

Another witness, Maureen McNulty, said the small roadway outside the church was “littered” with injured people following the collision.

“I just said you’re going to need a half dozen ambulances. It was so frightening.

“There was one man caught underneath the car, and another caught at the front. There were people running everywhere.

“The driver sort of fell in the passenger seat, and then there were people looking after him. There were a lot of people just slightly injured, but in terrible shock,” Ms McNulty said.

Another eyewitness told Independent.ie: "I turned around and the car was coming straight at us, my friend and me both pulled each other out of the way and into a wall.

“No one heard it coming but then I saw people flying in the air and I realised the car had hit my hand.

“People started screaming and shouting.”

Gardaí cordoned off the scene and senior officers were present in the immediate aftermath of the collision.

The funeral service of popular local man David Breach, which was due to take place at the time of the incident, was delayed until 1pm yesterday.

During a homily, the parish priest said the community’s prayers were with the injured. He also thanked the emergency services for their work.

In a statement from the Archdiocese of Dublin, the priests of the parish of the Immaculate Conception in Clondalkin expressed their condolences to those injured.

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