Three people were killed and six others injured, including four children, after a horrific two-car collision that left one vehicle engulfed in a fireball.
The devastating accident happened when two cars, a small saloon and a people carrier, were involved in a head-on collision in Waterford on Military Road some 5km outside Dungarvan at 10am yesterday.
The small car exploded in an intense fireball seconds after the impact.
Gardai initially suspected two people had died in the gutted car but were horrified to discover, when they began a forensic examination of the charred vehicle, that a third person was dead on the rear seat.
It is believed all three of the deceased were males.
Two of the bodies remained at the scene until after 4pm, when they were removed by hearse for post-mortem examinations.
All three must be formally identified from dental records and are not believed to be from Dungarvan.
The gutted vehicle has a Cork registration but gardai are trying to confirm if the owner was in the wreck.
Damage to the car was so extensive that forensic experts were unable to get access to the vehicle until four hours after the accident due to safety concerns.
The collision took place shortly before 10am on the Military Road, the N72, which acts as a bypass route for Dungarvan in west Waterford.
One vehicle was heading in the direction of Cork while the second, the people carrier, was heading in the direction of Waterford.
It is understood a Cork family was travelling in the people carrier to attend the Winterval Christmas festival in Waterford city.
The three occupants of the small car are believed to have been travelling to attend a sports match.
The six injured in the people carrier were airlifted from the scene to Cork University Hospital (CUH) and University Hospital Waterford (UHW).
The airlifts were undertaken by the Waterford-based Irish Coast Guard helicopter and the Air Corps Agusta helicopter.
Both helicopters landed in local fields, with the injured taken on board by paramedics and fire brigade personnel.
A fleet of ambulances attended the scene to support the emergency medical treatment.
Three of those airlifted to CUH, two adults and a child, are understood to be in a critical but stable condition.
Both adults, one from Cobh and one from Banteer, underwent emergency surgery at CUH last night.
The woman lost her brother in a Cork road tragedy just two years ago.
Three others, all children aged from seven to 14 years, are in a serious but stable condition in UHW. They are being treated for suspected fractures and soft tissue injuries.
The collision took place 1.5km from the Radley Engineering premises close to a humpback bridge and 1km from Coolnasmear junction.
It sparked a major emergency response in Waterford, with eight ambulances, four Dungarvan Fire Brigade units and 20 gardai responding.
Dungarvan gardai said they are now trying to piece together the precise circumstances of the fatal collision.
"We wish to appeal for witnesses that travelled this stretch of road to contact Dungarvan Garda Station at (058) 48600," a spokesman said.