'I'm lucky to be alive. The tree missed my head by a few inches'
A student who was trapped on a school bus after it swerved out of control in torrential rain and ploughed sideways through a ditch has said she is "very lucky to be alive".
Catriona Nugent (17) was one of 52 secondary school pupils on board the bus, which crashed in extreme weather conditions at 8.20am yesterday.
A tree smashed through the bus, missing her head by inches.
Gardaí and Cork fire brigade officials said it was "a miracle" that the most serious harm to any of the 52 passengers was a minor leg injury suffered by a teenage boy.
The accident, at Cregg South on the Fermoy to Bally- hooly Road in north Cork, saw three students trapped inside the bus until emergency services arrived.
"I suppose I am very lucky to be alive," Catriona said.
"The tree smashed through the window right beside me. It missed my head by just a couple of inches. Myself and my two friends were sitting on the back seat and we were trapped by the tree after the impact."
Catriona feared for her legs, which were trapped by the tree.
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"I couldn't get out of the bus as my legs were caught. It happened before any of us knew what was going on. I thought the road was very bumpy. Then, all of a sudden, a tree passed right over my head.
"There was shattered glass everywhere. The bus was being driven by a different driver but the normal driver was also with him."
When the bus ground to a halt in a sunken field, the driver got all the youngsters clear and then came back to reassure the three trapped students.
A woodwork teacher from Coláiste an Chaoibhín in Fermoy arrived and, equipped with saws, helped emergency services to release the students.
Catriona's brother Ciaran (15) rang their parents, Lilly and Ritchie, to tell them what had happened.
"I heard on the news in my car that there had been a bus crash," said Mrs Nugent.
"I was in total shock. But then Ciarán rang and said Catriona was being taken to Cork by ambulance. It was such a huge relief when he was able to put her on the phone and I could talk to her."
Mr Nugent also told of his relief.
"We got a terrible shock. Thankfully, there are no really bad injuries. They were very, very lucky," he said.
Sixteen-year-old Adam Cronin suffered a leg injury but is expected to be released from Cork University Hospital today.
The students were being ferried to Fermoy schools including Coláiste an Chaoibhín, Loreto and St Colman's.
Coláiste an Chaoibhín principal Christy Healy paid tribute to the emergency services.
"We are very lucky that nobody was seriously injured," he said.
Investigations into the incident are now under way by both the gardaí and Bus Éireann. The vehicle belonged to sub-contractors Glenferry Coaches.