EIGHT men have lost their lives in one of the worst nights of carnage ever on Irish roads.
The dead include seven friends who are aged in their late teens and early 20s and a pensioner who was on his way home from bingo.
The young driver of one of the cars involved was also fighting for his life at Letterkenny General Hospital today.
A massive Garda investigation was continuing on the Inishowen Peninsula in Donegal today as three communities were plunged into grief.
The dead included Paul Doherty and Ciaran Sweeney from Ballyliffin, Clonmany, and James McEleney from Meentiaghs, Clonman.
Other victims have been named locally as Damien McLaughlin from Umrycan, Buncrana, PJ McLaughlin from Tooban, Burnfoot, and Mark McLaughlin from Ballinahown.
The Herald understands Eamon McDaid from Cruckahinney, Buncarna also lost his life. The driver of the second car has been named locally as Hughie Friel (65) from Urris, Clonmany.
A female relative of Paul Doherty, who died in the Passat, broke down this morning as she recalled the horror. She told the Herald: “He was full of craic, the apple of our eye, and a very hard worker. How could this happen?
“Always tell your loved ones that you love them. Take the time. Say it every day. Because it's too late for us now,” she said. Local councillor Padraig Mac Lochlainn described the tragedy as “unthinkable” and “an absolute disaster”.
The accident brought the number of road fatalities to 10 after a man and woman had been killed earlier in separate road crashes.
The Donegal tragedy occurred on a treacherous area of road known as Mintiagh Bends, between Buncrana and Clonmany at 10.40pm.
The eight young men were travelling in a black Volkwagen Passat, while Mr Friel was in a red Toyota Corolla. Gardai are investigating reports that the Passat may have clipped a car driven by a woman and travelled on 200 metres before it collided with Mr Friel's car.
The R238 road is expected to remain closed until tonight as a Forensic Collision Investigation Unit attempted to piece together exactly what happened.
A neighbour of Hughie Friel described the pensioner as “a lovely man”.
Manager of the local Urris football team John Friel told the Herald: “My heart goes out to all the families. The whole of Inishowen is numbed. Such a tragedy with all those young lives. It's unbelievable.”
Donegal senator Cecelia Keaveney said that the accident would “reawaken many very, very bad memories” in an area which has been repeatedly devastated by road deaths.
“There' ll be nobody who won't be touched by this tragedy,” she said. “”Because of the close-knit community it affects very, very many people in Inishowen particularly.”
Cllr Padraig Mac Lochlainn said: “As the next couple of days transpire it's going to be huge grief, huge grief.”
A Garda spokesperson appealed for anyone who was on the Buncrana to Clonmany road between 10pm and 11pm last night to come forward with information.
“We would particularly like to hear from anyone who may have seen the black VW Passat prior to the incident,” he said.
Local people named some of the victims as Ciaran Sweeney and Paul Doherty from Ballyliffen and James McEleney from Clonmany. Local businessman Denis Coyle said: “Everyone is shocked and saddened. It's a sad day surely. Our hearts go out to all the families. Everyone is in shock. It's a terrible shock.”
At least one of the young men was from Buncrana and was a cousin of one of the other victims. Buncrana curate Fr George Doherty said: “I haven't heard yet what happened. I'm shocked and saddened by such news.”
The Donegal accident brought to 10 the number of people killed over the weekend.
Ealier, a 43-year-old Scottish man was killed when the car he was driving crashed into a ditch in Galway. The man who had been living in Westport for a number of years was the only occupant of the car and was pronounced dead at the scene.
And a 27-year-old woman died when her car crashed in Tipperary. She has been named locally as Aideen O'Donnell from Kilconnell, near Fethard in Tippearary.