Two killed and 20 hurt as van and bus collide
TWO people were killed last night and up to 20 injured following a crash between a bus and a van in treacherous weather conditions.
The drivers of the two vehicles were killed instantly in the head-on collision at Glennafosha on the N17, Galway-Tuam road just before 8pm.
A total of 27 students were travelling on the bus from Co Mayo which was bringing them back to three colleges in Limerick, the University of Limerick, Limerick Institute of Technology and Mary Immaculate Teacher Training College.
None of the students are believed to have sustained life-threatening injuries.
The accident happened on a straight stretch of road, but at a dip in the road, about five miles on the Galway side of Tuam. It was raining and driving conditions were extremely poor at the time, with localised flooding on parts of the road.
The bus, operated by Corduff Travel in Mayo, had set out from Swinford at 6pm and picked up students at Charlestown, Ballyhaunis and Tuam. It was continuing on its way along the N17 on the Galway side of Tuam when the collision occurred.
Gardai believe the two vehicles collided head-on and the bus veered off the road and crashed into a stone wall. The van sustained massive damage on impact.
The bus driver, in his 30s, and the driver of the van, in his 60s, were both pronounced dead at the scene.
There were scenes of great distress at the scene and the emergency services, including gardai and ambulances from Galway and Tuam, as well as Tuam Fire Brigade, arrived within minutes of the collision.
A total of six ambulances ferried some of the injured to University College Hospital in Galway city.
But such were the numbers of injured that another bus was commandeered locally and used to transport the rest of the students to hospital in Galway city under garda escort.
Up to 18 of the students had been assessed at the A&E department of UCH Galway by late last night and most were suffering from scratches, soft tissue injuries and shock.
Major diversions were put in place, with traffic from Galway diverted at Corofin and traffic from Tuam diverted at Belclare. It was expected that the road would remain closed until this morning at the earliest.
The tragedy happened almost 12 months to the day since four young female students from NUI Galway lost their lives, also on the N17 at Carrownurlaur in north Galway, about 10 miles from last night's crash scene.
The latest tragedy ensured it was yet another bleak weekend on the country's roads.
Three other people lost their lives, including a 51-year-old male cyclist who was killed when he was struck by a car yesterday near Mountmellick, Co Laois. The driver of the car, a woman in her 20s, is being treated for minor injuries at Portlaoise Hospital.
It is understood the cyclist was a retired prison officer.
Elsewhere, a 30-year-old man was pronounced dead in Cavan Hospital on Saturday following a three-car collision on the R195 outside Oldcastle in Co Meath.
He had been taken to hospital after sustaining serious injuries and died later. A driver of one of the other vehicles was also injured but is recovering.
In Roscommon, gardai are investigating a fatal collision that took place on Friday, three miles outside Ballinasloe on the Athlone Road, and involved a car and a pedestrian. The female pedestrian was pronounced dead at the scene and gardai are appealing for witnesses to come forward.