Tributes paid to teenage victims of tragic disco crush
- Three victims named locally as Lauren Bullock (17), Morgan Barnard (17) and Connor Currie (16)
- 'People were literally fighting for their lives' - a witness describes hysterically screaming
- Another mother speaks of her relief at hearing her two sons were safe
The three teenage victims of the suspected stampede outside the Greenvale Hotel on St Patrick's night have been named locally.
Three young people - two boys and a girl - were killed and three others hurt in the tragic incident.
Tributes have been paid to 17-year-old Lauren Bullock, who was described as "the most down to earth, beautiful soul".
Euophoria Allstar Cheerleading NI team said: "Euphoria are absolutely devastated to say we lost one of our senior athletes, Lauren Bullock, in the tragedy in Cookstown last night. "My heart is broken writing this. You were the most down to earth, beautiful soul and our Coral team will never be the same without you.
"You were an incredible cheerleader and were the backbone of our team. Fly high our beautiful girl."
Euphoria are absolutley devastated to say we lost one of our senior athletes Lauren Bullock in the tragedy in Cookstown...Posted by Euphoria Allstar Cheerleading NI on Monday, March 18, 2019
A second victim was named locally as 16-year-old Connor Currie from Edendork, Dungannon, Co Tyrone.
Connor, a keen GAA player, was remembered by his club Edendork GAC in Dungannon, who said he will be remembered with the "greatest affection".
"As a club and community, we are deeply saddened and devastated to hear of the tragic passing of our much loved and highly thought of player and member Connor Currie," the club wrote.
"Connor will forever be remembered with the greatest affection by all associated with our club and indeed the wider Edendork community. We are all in shock at Connor’s untimely passing, to lose a dear friend and team mate is one of the most difficult life experiences you will have to face."
The third victim was named as Morgan Barnard, aged 17, who attended St Patrick's Academy in Dungannon along with Connor Currie.
Meanwhile, a young girl who was in attendance at the event has described in harrowing detail how the commotion unfolded. She said she fell and was trapped under other young people in the queue.
"It started with pushing and shoving but everyone was still laughing and having a good time. Then the literal crushing started," she wrote on Facebook.
"The people on the outside of this line were so determined to get in they felt the need to not only push us against the wall but push with all their strength. No matter how much we screamed and pushed back, there was no movement.
"Two of my friends fell to the ground. I tried to pull them up but at that point there was no room for them to even come back up. So I started screaming at the top of my lungs: 'My friends are on the ground, move back! My friends have fainted, move back! My friends can’t breath, move back!
"Nothing. Not one bit of movement.
"I could still see people laughing with no idea what was going on. At this point I thought my friends were going to die, I was standing up and I couldn’t breathe so I couldn’t imagine how they felt. I was hysterically screaming for people to move but it was only the people around me who knew the seriousness.
"With more and more pushing, I also fell. But the thing about me was that I wasn’t on the ground, I was on top of someone, and this person was on top of someone else.
- Read more: St Patrick's Day tragedy: Police examining CCTV as three teens killed in 'suspected crush' at disco
"As I looked down I could see multiple bodies underneath me and as I looked up I could see multiple bodies on top of me. It was the most traumatic, frightening and stressful moment of my life.
"People were scratching, biting and grabbing anything they could to pull themselves up to breath. I think that’s what really shows the seriousness of it all, people were literally fighting for their lives.
"It felt like this went on forever but eventually I felt bodies being dragged over me and beside me...it was the young people in the line who pulled me out.
"My leg was caught underneath someone and my hair was caught somewhere else, my jeans were pulled down around my thighs and my jersey above my head but I was getting pulled out nonetheless.
"I rang my parents to explain what had happened and let them know I was okay.
"Unfortunately, a friend of mine who I had seen in the line and chatted to minutes beforehand has died. They didn’t make it home. My heart breaks for their poor families. I’m heartbroken."
Separately a mother whose two sons had travelled to the Greenvale Hotel to attend the St Patrick's Day disco said they have been "traumatised" by the suspected stampede.
Emma Heatherington from Donamore said neither of her two sons were injured - but her daughter's friend was tragically killed in the incident. The young girl was also from Donamore.
Speaking on RTÉ radio, Emma said that as news emerged of the incident, she desperately tried to reach her two sons to make sure that they were ok.
- Read More: Catherine O’Mahony: 'St Patrick's disco tragedy reminds us of every parent's worst nightmare'
She said the two had travelled to the disco with friends from the locality.
"They are both obviously quite traumatised by everything that has happened and everything that has happened since as the news unfolds this morning," she said.
"They were with their own friends in the queue to go into the disco.
"They say that there was commotion at the front, then they were all asked to step back. And before long police and ambulance were on the scene and it was all frantic.
"It was very quick, very mad, very crazy. It was surreal. They don't know what happened."
Emma said her youngest son saw a boy on the ground as ambulance staff tried to resuscitate him.
"It turned out he was from his year in school as you can imagine that was extremely traumatic for him to witness that," she said.
Ms Heatherington said that she learned that something had happened through social media late on Sunday night.
"When I saw the call out on Facebook to get your children home, I felt sick. I couldn't even hold the phone I was shaking.
"I got through to one of them and he was ok, he was in the nearby McDonalds.
"He said: 'Mummy it is not good,' then he was cut off.
"I was walking around the house trying to get mobile coverage to get through to both of them and finally I did.
"I can't even describe the relief of the sound of their keys in the door. But the trauma wasn't over.
"Then my daughter came screaming down the stairs to say that her friend was dead.
"My daughter wanted to be with her friends, they all just wanted to be together last night."
CCTV will play a crucial role in the investigation into the deaths of three young teenagers, police said.
"A major investigation is now underway, however preliminary information suggests a crush took place towards the front door," a PSNI spokesperson said.
"Our investigation is at an early stage, and while the exact cause of the incident is still unknown, there are reports of a crush at the scene and initial enquiries indicate that a large group of young people were waiting to enter a disco.
"We also have reports of some fighting after the incident commenced and at least one person has reported that they were assaulted."
Assistant Chief Constable Mark Hamilton said from his understanding, the event was not an underage disco so a "full investigation will be carried out as to why the young people were there".
Independent.ie has learned that the PSNI has footage that recorded the sequence of events and will help identify how the horror unfolded.
It is believed a crowd of young people had gathered at the hotel to gain access to a disco to which the doors were due to open at 9.30pm, according to local SDLP MLA Patsy McGlone.
“But it seems that just before the doors were to open, at around 9.25pm there was a crush at the door and people began to fall,” he said.
“The reaction here last night and in the early hours of this morning is one of shock. People really are at a low ebb this morning. It’s a huge loss in the community.
“Youngsters going out for a disco on St Patrick's night. Everybody, their families, all thinking they are safe and well, and then the news turns differently.
“Out and about this morning speaking to people their hearts feel for the families of the youngsters who have died here,” he added.
“What went wrong is the subject of a police investigation at the moment, and it’s best to leave that in the hands of those who are tasked with that to establish. As the police outlined this morning they have some CCTV footage. Anyone who witnessed what happened here last night should please come forward and give that information to the police so that a proper and full investigation can be pursued,” Mr McGlone explained.
“I’ve already spoken to the local health trust, the chief executive and one of the directors this morning, and I've liaised with the GAA and the police here to make sure that any counselling g that can be made available is made available for those involved with the incident.
“But I'm sure there may well be staff and indeed some of the emergency services who will require that support. The health trust have what they call a hub meeting tomorrow morning to decide how best to take that forward,” he added.
In a short statement, hotel owner Michael McElhatton said management and staff were assisting the police with their investigation.
"We are all deeply shocked and saddened by the traumatic events of last night," he said.
"We offer our heartfelt sympathies to the families and friends of the three young people who lost their lives. Our thoughts are also with those who have been injured or affected in any way by this tragedy."
He also thanked the emergency services who were called to the hotel about 9.30pm. Five emergency crews, paramedics and doctors were dispatched to the scene.
Archbishop Eamon Martin released a statement asking for prayers following the tragic deaths of the three teens.
"The joy and celebration of Saint Patrick’s Day in the Archdiocese of Armagh has given way to shock and sadness today as we try to come to terms with the tragic incident in Cookstown last night. Our heartfelt thoughts and prayers are with the families and friends of Lauren, Connor and Morgan, and with all of those who were caught up in the horror and distress of what happened, including those injured and traumatised, and the emergency services and staff who responded.
"In the coming days our parishes, schools and wider communities of Dungannon, Donaghmore, Cookstown, and others throughout Tyrone and beyond, will reach out with Christian faith, love and compassion to let these heartbroken families and school friends know that they are not alone in their grief and loss. Please join with me in praying for comfort and strength for all the bereaved and injured."
A book of condolence will be opened this evening after Mass in Saint Patrick’s Church, Dungannon.
Police are appealing for anyone who witnessed the incident to get in contact. They urged parents to talk to their children and encourage them to come forward to describe what happened.