FOUR young women have been killed in horrific head-on collision.
The four friends – three aged 19 and a 20-year-old – died when their car collided with a van near Athy, Co Kildare last night.
The group were travelled from Kildare to Carlow town when the collision occurred.
Three other people, including a 20-year-old woman who was driving the Volkswagen Polo car the girls were travelling in and two men who were in the van, all remain in hospital today.
The four victims were named locally today as Aisling Middleton (19) from Coneyboro, Athy, Co Kildare, Chermaine Carroll (20) of Pollerton, Carlow, Niamh Doyle (19) from Mount Leinster Park, Carlow and Gemma Nolan (19) from Tullow Road in Carlow.
The driver of the students’ car has been named as Dayna Kearney (20) from Crosneen in Carlow town.
The collision occurred shortly before 10pm last night at Birdstown, Co Kildare – three miles from the M9.
All the young women, who have known each other since childhood, had been in Kilkenny and were driving towards Athy to pick up Aisling Middleton’s laptop from her home. They had then intended to stay in Carlow overnight.
Parents of Gemma Nolan, Josephine and Jim, told the Herald of their heartbreak this morning.
“Gemma was just a wonderful daughter, she was adorable,” her mother Josephine said from her home in Idrone Park in Carlow.
“She was best friends with the other girls all her life, and they went to St Leo’s College in the town together.
“They had ben in Kilkenny but had wanted to stop over in Athy to pick up Aisling’s laptop.
“We got a phone call from one of the other mothers to say they were all coming to Carlow, but then they hadn’t shown up, and later she rang back to say she heard there had been an accident with five girls, and she as afraid it was them,” osephine said.
Gemma’s heartbroken father Jim said he was very proud of his daughter.
“She was in second year in St Patrick’s College in Carlow and had just done her work experience in Saplings school for autism in the town,” he explained.
“She was studying social studies,” he added.
“Our son identified Gemma in the morgue. It’s absolutely heartbreaking,” Jim said.
“The girls were always very happy together, and they would be in and out of all our houses. They were great fun. They were all outgoing and sociable girls, and a joy to be around,” Josephine said.
“Gemma played the accordian in the Scoil Mhuire band as a child, and she like walking and ice skating and going to the gym,” she added.
While coming to terms with the death of their daughter, the parents said the deaths of all friends was a “big blow” to Carlow,
The driver of the van and the male passenger are both believed to be Polish nationals.
Grief-stricken family and friends of Niamh Doyle gathered at her house at Mount Leinster Park in Carlow today.
A cousin of the 19-year-old described her as “beautiful” adding “any mother or father would have loved to have her as a daughter”.
“She was so smiley, she would light up a room,” she added.
The youngest of three children, her older brother Kevin was making his way home from Australia today having learned of the terrible news last night.
Aisling Middleton (19) was from Coney Meadows in the Coneyboro estate in Athy where neighbours were today in shock.
“She was a very good neighbour. A lovely girl,” said one local man.
Aisling was studying Arts in NUI Maynooth, Chermaine was a former Carlow IT student working in the Woodford Dolmen Hotel, Carlow and Gemma was studying in her second year in St Patrick’s College in Carlow.
Fr Frank McEvoy was called to the tragic scene where he gave the four dead women the last rites on the roadside.
Speaking to Newstalk’s Pat Kenny, the priest, from the Narraghmore/Moone Parish in Kildare, said he wished to extend his sympathies to the families of the bereaved and his prayers to those in hospital.
“I was called out by gardai last night... to see four young bodies on the side of the road, it was very sad and very sobering,” he said.
“It really brought it home. So many people are careful on the roads now but anything can happen.
“To see four young bodies lying on the side of the road was very sad and very sobering.
“When you stand there and see four young bodies with their whole lives ahead of them,” the priest said.
Fr McEvoy was alerted at approximately 11.45pm, almost two hours after the incident took place.
“Nothing could be done for those women, the inspector said to me the families would appreciate it if a priest came and prayed for them on the side of the road,” he continued.
“The driving conditions seemed okay, it was cold and windy but the roads were not slippery.”
A scene of carnage awaited him at the roadside.
“The car that the girls (were in) had the roof taken off but it was mangled.
The van on the other side had to be taken away from the car because it was on fire, it had to be pulled away from car,” he continued.
The three injured in the collision are being treated at Naas General Hospital. The two Polish men had been transporting a motorcycle when the crash happened.
As daylight broke the true carnage of the scene became visible, with the burned-out van in the middle of the road and the VW Polo the girls were travelling in lying destroyed at the side of the road.
The van was facing the direction of the M9 motorway, whereas the girls were believed to be travelling in the opposite direction towards Athy.