Sunday 17 November 2019

Tight-knit Donegal community offered counselling in wake of four tragic road deaths

  • 'The stuff of nightmare' - four friends met up to say goodbye before horror Donegal crash
  • Gardaí trying to piece together the last known movements of four young Donegal friends
  • Daniel Scott (23), John Harley (24), Mícheál  Roarty (24) and Shaun Harkin (22) were killed instantly just before 9pm on Sunday
Friends: Mícheál Roarty, Shaun Harkin, Daniel Scott, and John Harley were killed in the crash near Gortahork, Co Donegal, on Sunday evening.
Friends: Mícheál Roarty, Shaun Harkin, Daniel Scott, and John Harley were killed in the crash near Gortahork, Co Donegal, on Sunday evening.
A signpost for An Fal Carrach, Donegal, an accident occurred near Gleannhualach. Picture: Damien Eagers
Michael Roarty
Daniel Scott
John Harley
Shaun Harkin

Conor Feehan, Stephen Maguire and Rachel Farrell

The tight-knit West Donegal community will be offered specialist counselling in the aftermath of the deaths of four young men in a horrific road collision.

The HSE extended its sympathy to the bereaved families and friends and confirmed that it will "respond to community needs" in terms of offering support.

Meanwhile gardaí are trying to piece together the last known movements of the four young friends who were killed.

The friends had met up to say goodbye as one of their group, Daniel Scott, was leaving to start a new job abroad next week.

Michael Roarty
Michael Roarty

Tragically Mr Scott (23), John Harley (24), Mícheál Roarty (24) and Shaun Harkin (22) were killed instantly when the silver Toyota Carolla they were in left a bog road and rolled down a field near Gortahork just before 9pm on Sunday.

Yesterday evening the first of the bodies was released to family members after post mortems had taken place at Letterkenny University Hospital.

Daniel Scott
Daniel Scott

In a statement, the HSE said: "The  impact of this tragedy has extended beyond the immediate families to the broader community.  Our main priority is to offer support to the bereaved families and details of this will be provided to each family immediately.  

"The HSE have been liaising with the local community and is enhancing its services so as to meet the emotional and psychological needs of those impacted.

John Harley
John Harley

" We acknowledge the importance and value of the support provided naturally within the tight knit community of West Donegal, where friends, families and neighbours will be a primary source of support.

"We also recognise that some people will require professional help and support.  Additional supports are available for those who need it and we are advising that they contact their GP, all of whom have been informed of the range of services available."

Shaun Harkin
Shaun Harkin

The men were all childhood friends and well known in the Gaeltacht areas of Falcarragh, Gortahork and Gweedore.

The scene of the crash was eventually cleared yesterday afternoon after Garda forensic investigators had carried out their work.

Early indications are the four friends were travelling from Magheroarty towards Gweedore when the crash happened.

The place where the car left the road is at the bottom of a steep hill on a bog road, where a bridge at the bottom crosses a small river.

The car went off the road to the left, crashing through a fence before tumbling into the field about eight feet below the road surface.

It then crashed into another fence before coming to a rest beside the river bank.

Scene: Garda close off a local road in Gaoth Dobhair, Gweedore, Co Donegal. Photo: Rebecca Black/PA Wire
Scene: Garda close off a local road in Gaoth Dobhair, Gweedore, Co Donegal. Photo: Rebecca Black/PA Wire

Personal items lay scattered in the field after the car was taken away. Coins, earphones and glasses standing out among the medical equipment used by the emergency services.

Appeal

Supt David Kelly, of Milford garda station, issued an appeal for information on sightings of the car the men were travelling in.

A signpost for An Fal Carrach, Donegal, an accident occurred near Gleannhualach. Picture: Damien Eagers
A signpost for An Fal Carrach, Donegal, an accident occurred near Gleannhualach. Picture: Damien Eagers

He said: "On Sunday night at approximately 8.40pm gardaí received a report of a single vehicle collision at Gleannhualach. When they attended the scene they found one vehicle, a 01 DL registered silver Toyota Corolla hatchback, off the road and there were four casualties.

"It was dark, it was a tragic scene, and family members arrived. I'd like to sincerely on behalf of gardaí and my other colleagues to offer our condolences to the families."

Mr Harley and Mr Harkin were from Falcarragh, Mr Scott from Gortahork, and Mr Roarty from Gweedore.

All of them were involved in their communities and were members of local soccer and GAA teams.

GAA President John Horan offered his condolences and those of the Association to the families of the deceased.

He said: “I was truly saddened to hear the awful news that four young men tragically lost their lives in a road accident last Sunday night in Donegal.

“It is heart-breaking to think that these four young men, in the prime of their lives, had their lives taken from them so soon.

“On behalf of the GAA I would like to extend my sympathies and condolences to the victims’ families, teammates, clubs, and wider circle of friends.”

Many of the young men's wider circle of friends, who had emigrated in the past and had been home for Christmas, were yesterday trying to make their way back to Donegal to pay their respects.

One of the first people on the scene was local priest Fr Brian O'Fearraigh.

"To look down into the valley where the accident happened and to see the sirens and to go to the scene was just the stuff of nightmares," he said.

"Two communities had been plunged into sadness by what had happened. Words fall silent.

"And then relatives of those in the crash began to arrive and we just stood there and hugged."

Principal of Pobolscoil Chloich Cheannfhaola in Falcarragh, Meave Sweeney, said three of the four young men killed in the crash had attended the school at different stages and Shaun and Daniel were in the school together.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar interrupted Dáil business on Tuesday afternoon to send sympathy to all those bereaved in recent road crashes.

Mr Varadkar said he especially wanted to remember the four young men killed in west Donegal last Sunday night.

Mr Varadkar said that on behalf of himself, the Government, and the people of Ireland he wished to extend sympathy to the bereaved families, friends and communities in the wake of the crash.

Fianna Fáil leader, Micheál Martin, also added his own sympathy and that of his party following the road deaths. 

Mr Martin said a total of 10 people were killed on Irish roads in recent days which was a shocking death toll.

Mr Martin singled out the four young men killed on Sunday in Donegal.  Speaking in Irish and English he offered sincere sympathy to all the people in west Donegal for this terrible loss.

Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald said she would similarly like to extend her sympathy and that of her party to all concerned and bereaved. She included the young people in Donegal and others killed in a series of road accidents over recent days.

 

Grief

Today, the bodies of the four young men will be waked at their homes before their funerals take place on Thursday.

The communities of Falcarragh, Gortahork and Gweedore have been trying to come to grips with the depth of the tragedy and comfort the families of the deceased.

Yesterday evening there were emotional scenes as the body of Mícheál Roarty (24) was brought home to Dunlewey in Gweedore following the post mortem examination at Letterkenny University Hospital.

Members of the local soccer team Dunleer Celtic lined the road under the imposing Mount Errigal as the hearse made its way back to the home of his parents Máire and Martin, brother Mark and sister Gracie.

His remains will repose there from noon today.

His funeral mass will take place in the Sacred Heart Church, Dunlewey on Thursday morning at 11.30 am with burial afterwards in the adjoining cemetery.

At 1pm today the body of Shaun Harkin (22), from Killult, Falcarragh, will be taken from the Eternal Light Chapel of Rest, Mountain Top, Letterkenny to the home of his parents Joe and Alice and his brother Daniel.

Removal will take place from there from there on Thursday for 10am mass in Christ the King Church, Gortahork with burial afterwards in the adjacent cemetery.

The body of John Harley (24), from Carrowcannon, Falcarragh will be reposing at the home of his parents Ann and Gerry and brother Mark from 11am today.

His funeral will take place at St. Finian's Church, Falcarragh at 1pm on Thursday.

And the body of Daniel Scott (23) who was due to start a new job in Denmark, will repose at the home of his mother Gretta and stepfather Pat at Bedlam, Gortahork from 5pm today.

His father Josie and stepmother Denise, two brothers and two sisters also mourn his loss.

Daniel’s funeral mass will take place in Christ the King Church, Gortahork on Thursday afternoon at 2.30pm with burial afterwards in the adjacent cemetery.

Irish Independent

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