| 10.6°C Dublin

Police disgusted at 'ghoulish' people who filmed Irish backpacker dying

POLICE in Australia have condemned the ghoulish behaviour of shoppers who filmed the dying moments of an Irish backpacker killed in a freak accident.

Dozens recorded the scene on mobile phones as 23-year-old qualified engineer Donal Bolton, from Offaly, lay fatally injured after he was struck

Analysis page 26

by an out-of-control car in a crowded shopping mall in the city of Cairns in northern Queensland earlier this week.

Mr Bolton was going to celebrate his birthday in Australia on January 31 and then return to Ireland after spending 10 months in Australia with his girlfriend Justine Walsh, 22, from Durrow, near Tullamore.

Lead investigator Senior Constable Scott Ezard said he was appalled by the countless bystanders who filmed paramedics as they battled to save the young Irishman and help his girlfriend, who was injured in the crash last week.

"It's an absolute tragedy, someone's been killed, and people are more concerned with taking photographs than helping victims," the policeman said.

"It's a sad indictment on society, fairly morbid behaviour, just so they can stick it up on YouTube."

The young couple had been in the tourist town a day and were sitting on a bench in the sun waiting for a shuttle bus on Tuesday when tragedy struck.

Senior Constable Ezard described the accident as freakish and said it was a miracle more people were not hurt.

"I've never seen such an accident before, he [the driver] split between two palm trees not much wider than the vehicle, missed the bollards, gone over two concrete walls and still managed to collect two victims," he said.

Witness Renee Peressini told how the car "came out of nowhere" and became airborne before hitting the Irish couple.

"It was just so surreal. When you're in the mall something like this is the last thing on your mind," she said.

Ms Peressini said Mr Bolton was still conscious when she called emergency services, while his girlfriend lay on the grass with a leg injury.

The 33-year-old driver suffered a fractured vertebrae and is still undergoing medical treatment.

Police are investigating whether it was a medical-related issue amid reports of the vehicle earlier being driven erratically.

Witnesses said the driver was "frothing at the mouth" with his "eyes rolling back in his head" moments after the crash.

Police believe there is no evidence of it being alcohol or drug-related but are waiting on blood test results.

Mr Bolton, from Ballinagar, Offaly, died at the scene. His girlfriend of five years suffered "bumps and bruises but is obviously deeply distraught", said police. She is being cared for by her uncle and aunt who live in Brisbane.

Ms Walsh, who returned to the scene of the accident on Friday, is due to escort her boyfriend's body back to Ireland for burial in the next two weeks.

"He was my best friend, my soulmate -- I love you babes," she said on Friday, reading from a prepared statement after she was released from hospital.

"Don was a fun-loving guy, he was loved by his family, friends and me and everybody. He will be really missed."

Tragically Donal Bolton's boyhood friend and schoolmate, Richard Gahan, 23, from Geashill, Co Offaly, was killed in a horrific car crash in Perth, Australia, last April.

It happened when the car he and two friends were travelling around Australia in hit an electric pole.

Now, when arrangements are made, many of the same people who attended Mr Gahan's funeral will be re-united to attend the funeral of Mr Bolton.

Offaly priest Msgr Tom Coonan spoke of the devastating impact of losing two young men who grew up alongside each other in the small rural enclave.

"Its a terrible and very sad coincidence to have lost two young guys from here and it is an awful blow to the community again, everyone here is just shocked by it," he said.

A Mass was held on Friday night in the Ballingar parish where Donal and his family moved to from Geashill six years ago.

"Young people are great to rally around one another and offer one another support in times like these," said Msgr Coonan.

"After all it is totally contrary to the normal run of things that a young man in his early 20s would lose his life like this," he added.

The Bolton family said in a statement on Thursday that their thoughts and prayers are with Donal's partner of five years, Justine, and the other people involved in the accident.

Funeral arrangements have not been finalised as the family await the release of their son's body.

Sunday Independent