'Worst crash I've seen in 37 years' - Father and son (5) killed in horror head-on collision
A father and son have died and two other children have been injured, one of them critically, following an horrific head-on crash between a car and a lorry.
Emergency services said the scene of the crash, outside Tullamore, Co Offaly, yesterday afternoon was one of "carnage".
A 30-year-old man, the driver of the car, who is understood to be the father of the children, and a five-year-old boy lost their lives.
Two other children were also in the car, a girl and a boy.
Last night, the girl was said to be fighting for her life.
She was airlifted to Crumlin Children's Hospital in Dublin and was said to be in a critical condition. She was due to undergo emergency surgery.
The boy was taken by ambulance to the Midland Regional Hospital in Tullamore with serious injuries.
The driver of the articulated lorry was also taken to the Tullamore hospital with minor injuries.
Speaking today in Tullamore, Superintendent Tom Mullarkey said gardaí are appealing to anyone who stopped last night at the scene to come forward.
He told independent.ie that a number of witnesses had already come forward but that some people, who had stopped and helped the emergency services before moving on are also needed.
He said a team of collision investigators are trying to determine what happened last night.
He described the scene of the crash as "chaotic" and the worst he had seen in 37 years of service.
Meanwhile, Parish Priest Fr John Stapleton said the tragedy was "very frightening for a community".
He said he had been nearby last night and saw a helicopter arrive.
He said he had prayed for the first responders and medical teams who helped the victims and all involved in the tragedy.
A major emergency response operation was launched following the crash on the N80 Tullamore to Mountmellick Road about 5pm.
The scene of the crash, at Scrubb, Killeigh, was sealed off last night as Garda forensic collision investigators carried out an examination.
A local man, who lives about 150 metres from the crash site, said: "I was here at home around 5pm and I heard a bang. When I went outside I saw [on the side of the road] the driver out [of the cab] with a phone in his hand," he told the Irish Independent.
"I thought no more of it until a bystander said he thought there was a fatality."
Despite heavy rain showers throughout the day, he said the weather was fine at the time of the crash.
Although the accident occurred at the top of a hill, he said that stretch of road was not considered hazardous, although the N80 is a very busy road, especially between 5pm and 6pm.
Fr Shane Crombie, a priest at the Church of the Assumption in Tullamore, said he believed the accident victims were from outside the parish.
However, he said the tragic loss of life and injuries came as a shock to the local area last night.
"Our prayers go to the families. The whole community will be offering their prayers and thoughts to the families involved," he said.
Local resident Rob Kelly said the news of the deaths came as a shock to locals and described it at a "tragedy". He said the accident was the first serious one in the area.