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Wednesday 21 February 2018

'There was silence ... then people started to scream'

The scene on the N17 yesterday
The scene on the N17 yesterday
A van and a bus collided near Tuam, Co Galway on Sunday night
Yesterday afternoon in Dunleer, Co Louth a man was hurled from his car after a head-on crash

Brian McDonald and Tom Shiel

A SURVIVOR of the horror bus crash that left two people dead gave a graphic account yesterday of its devastating aftermath.

Eighteen-year-old student Katie Campbell, from Swinford, Co Mayo, was one of 27 students from counties Mayo and Galway who were travelling in a bus to three Limerick colleges on Sunday night when their vehicle collided head-on with a van travelling in the opposite direction.

The accident happened in appalling weather conditions at Glenafosha, on the N17, about 5km outside Tuam on the Galway side. Katie said she had just fallen asleep in the third row behind the bus driver and was jolted from her seat shortly before 8pm.

"My back was against the (side) window. I heard this really loud bang and fell on my side. I held on to the handle of a seat and kept my head down.

"Glass was showered everywhere. The windscreen was totally shattered. I ended up covered in tiny pieces of glass. The glass was everywhere, in my hair, in my pockets, in my socks," she said.

Katie recalled a silence and then people started screaming. The bus driver was lying on his seat, slumped sideways. Passers-by were by now starting to enter the bus, which had come to rest, crashed into a wall at the side of the road. Along with other students, they went to the aid of the driver. "He responded a little bit, but then there was no response at all," she recalled.

The driver of the bus and the van driver were both pronounced dead at the scene.

Tuam priest Fr Stephen Farragher was called to Glenafosha and described the weather conditions as "atrocious".

"Both drivers were already dead by the time we got there and we just said a prayer with them," he said.

"There was an eerie silence on the bus because the students were still, I suppose, in a state of shock and the paramedics were trying to work through who was and who wasn't injured. It was a terrible scene -- not the kind of one you'd like to be called to too often."

The bus driver was named locally yesterday as Peter Last (60), a married man with one child from Murrisk, Co Mayo. He was described by neighbours as "a thorough gentlemen".

Bus company owner Michael Corduff said Mr Last was a good worker who regularly did the weekly student run from Mayo to Limerick, taking in several towns en route.

The van driver was named locally as Alan Howard, aged in his 30s, from Rockbarton Road, Salthill, Galway. Mr Howard was a supervisor with a food distribution company. A native of Carnmore, Co Galway, he got married last year and he and his wife have one child.

Superintendent Tony O'Donnell said yesterday that "serious issues" would have to be addressed.

"Some very serious issues arise (in relation to how the collision occurred) and hopefully the investigation will address all of those issues and be able to come to conclusions. It was a terrible, terrible tragedy."

Meanwhile, a Brazilian man in his 30s, who drowned after his car left the road on the Offaly-Westmeath border, may have been in the water for almost a day before he was discovered.

The man was spotted in the Monagh River by a passing bus driver yesterday morning. A garda sub-aqua unit spent a number of hours searching the river to ensure there were no other occupants of the vehicle.

The man, a father of three, lived in Kilbeggan, Co Westmeath, and worked in a local meat factory. He was last seen at lunchtime on Sunday.

Elsewhere, a Polish man is in a critical condition at the Midlands Regional Hospital in Tullamore, Co Offaly, following a two-car collision on the Tullamore to Clara road on Saturday.

In Dunleer, Co Louth, the 21-year-old driver of a car was hurled from his vehicle after it collided head-on with another car. In all, three people were taken to Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital in Drogheda.

The 21-year-old was in a critical condition in hospital last night.

Irish Independent

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