'It was just chaos, people were screaming... we had to get them out' - school bus crash hero
Teenage school pupils risked their own safety to help younger children out of the wreckage of a school bus crash.
Aislinn Merrick now wants to be a paramedic after her heroic efforts helping younger students out of the bus and then seeing the ambulance crews in action at the scene.
Aislinn, from Caherconlish, was traveling to John the Baptist Community School in Hospital, Co Limerick, when the school bus collided with a car and left the road on Wednesday.
After the bus came to a halt on its side in a field, Leaving Certificate student Aislinn and fifth-year student Luke O'Dea remained inside.
Aislinn (18) was the last student to leave and said it was "a miracle" everyone on the bus escaped with their lives.
She said younger students were frozen with fear that the bus might catch fire.
"It was just chaos. It was bad. There was people screaming ... but we managed to get everyone out. Some people were falling. A few people landed on top of each other. It was lucky no one got thrown out of the windows.
"There was a few students that were so scared they couldn't move. We had to get them out. I helped get them out through the shattered window."
Aislinn said she didn't believe she was a hero. She paid tribute to Luke for his rescue effort. Another student turned off the engine's ignition for fear it would start to smoke.
She said, despite her ordeal, she returned to school by bus yesterday to continue her pre-Leaving Certificate exams: "It was fine, up until we got to where (the bus) crashed, and then it was a bit scary - I was holding onto the seats a bit tighter and looking at the road a lot more than I would usually."
Her brother Timmy (14) would have been on the bus but was off school sick. "It's great that nothing happened to Aislinn or anyone else," he said. "A lot of my pals were on the bus. They were saying it was really frightening."
Proud dad John Merrick was milking cows on the family's farm, 3kms from the scene.
Noreen Rafferty, principal at John the Baptist School, said all the students were "heroes".
"Someone up there was praying for us," she added.
Students are being offered psychological counselling at the school.