Two teenagers and a child among 10 killed in Donegal petrol station explosion

Gardaí said four men, three women, a teenage girl, a teenage boy and a girl of primary school age were killed in the blast in Creeslough, Co Donegal.
Two teenagers and a child among 10 killed in Donegal petrol station explosion

Emergency services continue their work at the scene of an explosion at Applegreen service station in the village of Creeslough in Co Donegal, where ten people have now been confirmed dead. Picture date: Saturday October 8, 2022.

Update 4.30pm

Two teenagers and a young child are among 10 people confirmed dead in an explosion at an Irish petrol station.

Gardaí said four men, three women, a teenage girl, a teenage boy and a girl of primary school age were killed in the blast in Creeslough, Co Donegal.

A spokesman for the police, An Garda Siochana, said emergency services do not expect to recover any further victims from the rubble and there are no outstanding missing person reports.

Friday afternoon’s explosion ripped through the Applegreen service station and convenience store and adjacent buildings.

Cause

The Gardaí said it believed the cause of the explosion was accidental.

A major emergency recovery operation involving first responders from both sides of the Irish border extended through the night on Friday and into Saturday.

At a media conference in Milford, Co Donegal on Saturday afternoon, Garda press spokesman Liam Geraghty said: “The emergency services continue a search and recovery operation at the site this afternoon but based on the information available to An Garda Siochana at this time it is not expected that there will be any further casualties located and there are no outstanding reports of unaccounted for persons.

“The 10 casualties are four men, three women, two teenagers – a boy and girl, and a younger girl.

“The thoughts of all the emergency service personnel who have attended the scene over the last 24 hours, the local community in Creeslough and the nation are today with the deceased and their families.” Superintendent David Kelly of Milford Garda station added: “At this point in time we have to keep an open mind in how we investigate this but our information at this point in time is pointing towards a tragic accident.” All 10 victims were from the Creeslough area.

Applegreen

Applegreen founder and chief executive Joe Barrett said the company was “utterly shocked and saddened” by the “tragic” incident in Creeslough.

Mr Barrett said:

“Yesterday was a very dark day for Creeslough, for Donegal, for Ireland, and for all of us in the wider Applegreen family.

“This is a hugely tragic event, and I would like to offer our deepest sympathies to the families and friends of the deceased, and to the entire community in Creeslough.”

President Michael D Higgins

The President of Ireland, Michael D Higgins, expressed his shock at the “terrible tragedy”.

“All of our thoughts must go out to all of those who have been affected,” he said.

“Those who have received news of the loss of a loved one, those injured and, most of all, those who are waiting with anxiety for news of their loved ones.

“This tragedy is a terrible blow to a community that is closely knit and where every loss and injury will be felt by every member of the community and far beyond.” 

Taoiseach Micheál Martin

Taoiseach Micheál Martin said that he will visit the village.

“I think the entire nation is shocked at what has happened, it’s an unspeakable tragedy,” the Taoiseach told reporters in Cork.

“Our thoughts and our prayers, our hearts go out to the people of Creeslough, to the families of those who have lost their lives and who have been injured, and to the entire community who are numbed and shocked by what has happened.

“It’s very, very difficult to comprehend as people go about their daily lives, that something like this could happen in the middle of the day.

“It’s been extraordinarily difficult and traumatic for people as they’ve had long waits, huge anxiety and stress, waiting for news of their loved ones.” Mr Martin pledged support for the community in Creeslough to help it get through the “enormous trauma”.

He also paid tribute to the emergency services personnel including those from Northern Ireland who “at times in danger” rescued people and did everything they could to comfort people.

“That will be long remembered,” he said. “That solidarity and that sense of strong community between the essential services.” 

Prayers

Prayers were said in the local church in Creeslough on Saturday morning for all those suffering.

The congregation at St Michael’s Church heard there was a “tsunami” of grief in the community.

Fr John Joe Duffy said: “From our hearts, with all our hearts and with all our souls, we pray for those who have died, we pray for those who were injured, we pray for all who were involved … we pray for those who are there continuing to help and have helped since yesterday.

“We pray also for those family members who are bereaved and we pray for those who still are waiting news.

“We keep them all very much in our hearts.”

Update 4pm

Authorities believe the explosion in Creeslough was a “tragic accident”.

Gardaí say it is the largest number of civilian casualties seen in decades in the region.

Superintendent David Kelly of Milford garda station said: “This is a tragedy for our community. There are families left devastated.

“I want to offer, on behalf of myself and my colleagues that attended the scene, our very sincere condolences.

“I would like to say as well, and forgive me if I get a bit emotional because you are dealing with the public.

“At this point in time, we have to keep an open mind in how we investigate this but our information at this point in time is pointing towards a tragic accident.

“That said being a garda, I have to take a holistic and overall viewpoint, but that’s where we are going at the moment.

“We are following certain investigative angles but for operational reasons, I am not going into that.” It was also confirmed that all victims were from the Creeslough area.

Update 3.30pm

Tánaiste Leo Varadkar has described the service station explosion in Co Donegal as an “unthinkable tragedy”.

“On Friday the nation’s collective heart stopped when the news broke,” he said.

“This unthinkable tragedy happened in a community which we will all be familiar with, to families who were going about their daily lives like we do. This freak accident has left many empty chairs at dinner tables. It is just too hard to fathom.

“The sadness is incomprehensible. When something like this happens it’s almost impossible to absorb the horror of it. If there is any consolation, we can find it in the way that the community has rallied and come together. The emergency services in Ireland and Northern Ireland have been heroic. Our hospitals are providing the best of care.

“This is only the beginning of the rescue. The effects will be felt for many years and we all have a role to play in providing whatever comfort we can.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with those families who have lost loved ones, those recovering in hospital, the local community, and our emergency service personnel.”

Emergency services continue their work at the scene of an explosion at Applegreen service station in the village of Creeslough in Co Donegal, where at least three people have died. Picture date: Saturday October 8, 2022.
Emergency services continue their work at the scene of an explosion at Applegreen service station in the village of Creeslough in Co Donegal, where at least three people have died. Picture date: Saturday October 8, 2022.

Update: 1pm

Taoiseach Micheál Martin has pledged supports for the community in Creeslough to help get through the “enormous trauma” following the fatal explosion at the Co Donegal service station and has pledged to visit Donegal.

“The community in Creeslough is going through an enormous trauma. And we have to do everything we possibly can to help the community come through this, day-by-day and in the time ahead,” he said.

“No words will console what has happened and console those who have lost loved ones as a result of this tragedy but we have to be there for them as a people and we have to do everything we can to help them to try and cope with this unspeakable tragedy.” When asked what can be done by Government to help, Mr Martin said they would continue to “back up” local authority and health services.

“Whatever is required will be provided. And then in terms of counselling services, through childcare, through education, through family-based counselling, we will provide whatever services that are identified by the community as being necessary and that will help… cope with this.”

The Taoiseach also paid tribute the emergency services responding to the incident at Creeslough, Co Donegal.

“We want to pay tribute to all the essential services, those who worked throughout the night, at times in danger, to rescue people and to do everything they could to comfort people.

“Our emergency services from health, firefighting, gardaí, right across the board, all across the north-west, and particularly our colleagues in Northern Ireland, fire service and ambulance who came willingly and very quickly to the aid of those impacted by this.

“That will be long remembered. That solidarity and that sense of strong community between the essential services.”

Micheál Martin said he will visit Donegal in the wake of an explosion at a service station that has left at least nine people dead.

“I think the entire nation is shocked at what has happened, it’s an unspeakable tragedy. Our thoughts and our payers, our hearts go out to the people of Creeslough,” he told reporters in Cork.

“To the families of those who have lost their lives and who have been injured, and to the entire community who are numbed and shocked by what has happened.

“It’s very very difficult to comprehend as people go about their daily lives, that something like this could happen in the middle of the day.

“It’s been extraordinarily difficult and traumatic for people as they’ve had long waits, huge anxiety and stress, waiting for news of their loved ones,” the Taoiseach said.

Update 12pm

Micheal Martin said he expects the death toll in Creeslough to rise as it turns to a search and recovery effort.

“It’s very difficult for the families concerned in the community. We are with them and will be with them for the time ahead,” Mr Martin said.

“A shocking toll and there will be more, and it’s a search operation now and we hope and pray.

“It has been a very, very terrible 24 hours for them as news of this explosion arrived.

“There was people in the vicinity. They’ve had a lot of anxiety and stress and they’re waiting and waiting for news.

“The (emergency) services, and I’ve been talking to them, have been really, really courageous and have given great support.

“Many families will go through and are going through a terrible trauma right now and we have to rally around and I know the community will rally around, I know all the people in the vicinity of the community that will rally around.”

Earlier

The death toll from an explosion at an Irish petrol station has risen to seven as search efforts continue for further victims.

Friday afternoon’s blast in the village of Creeslough, Co Donegal, ripped through the Applegreen service station and convenience store and adjacent buildings.

Having announced three fatalities on Friday night, the Irish police force, An Garda Siochana, confirmed a further four deaths in a statement on Saturday morning.

The Garda said a search and recovery operation for “further fatalities” was continuing.

“An Garda Siochana can now confirm seven fatalities as a result of this incident – three fatalities were confirmed yesterday; four fatalities are now confirmed overnight,” it said.

“The search and recovery for further fatalities continues.

Emergency services continue their work at the scene of an explosion at Applegreen service station in the village of Creeslough in Co Donegal, where at least three people have died. Picture date: Saturday October 8, 2022.
Emergency services continue their work at the scene of an explosion at Applegreen service station in the village of Creeslough in Co Donegal, where at least three people have died. Picture date: Saturday October 8, 2022.

“Eight persons were transferred to hospital for medical attention yesterday.” A major emergency response operation involving first responders from both sides of the Irish border extended through the night and was continuing on Saturday morning.

Among those gathered at the cordon on Friday night were relatives of people believed to have been in the buildings at the time.

Sniffer dogs are being used amid the rubble. At one point on Friday night all machinery was turned off and onlookers were asked to remain completely silent as rescue workers attempted to detect survivors beneath the debris.

Irish premier Micheal Martin said Friday was the “darkest of days” for Donegal and Ireland.

“My thoughts and prayers are today with those who have lost their lives, and those injured in the devastating explosion in Creeslough,” said the Taoiseach.

“I wish to express my deepest sympathies to their family and friends, and to the entire community of Creeslough, on this darkest of days for Donegal and the entire country.

“People across this island will be numbed by the same sense of shock and utter devastation as the people of Creeslough at this tragic loss of life.

“I would like to thank all the members of the emergency services, from across the north west and Northern Ireland, who responded so quickly to the scene, and who are working throughout the night in extremely traumatic circumstances.” The Garda has not provided any information on the suspected cause of the explosion.

Local priest John Joe Duffy said the community was “numb and devastated”.

“We’re just broken-hearted, everyone is broken-hearted, we’re lost for words,” he told the PA news agency at the scene.

Emergency services continue their work at the scene of an explosion at Applegreen service station in the village of Creeslough in Co Donegal, where seven people have now been confirmed dead. Picture date: Saturday October 8, 2022.
Emergency services continue their work at the scene of an explosion at Applegreen service station in the village of Creeslough in Co Donegal, where seven people have now been confirmed dead. Picture date: Saturday October 8, 2022.

“What I’m appealing for is for the prayers of the people across this county and across the country, to pray for us, to help us and to give us strength to get through these difficult hours and difficult days that may lay ahead.” Donegal TD Joe McHugh said friends and families of people feared missing were going through a very difficult waiting period.

“We’re just waiting here, my sympathies and thoughts are with a lot of families here and their friends and loved ones, there is a very difficult waiting period now,” he told PA.

Multiple emergency service vehicles remain at the scene.

On Friday night a coastguard helicopter airlifted some of those who were injured in the blast from Letterkenny University Hospital to Dublin.

Northern Ireland’s air ambulance was also deployed, as were fire crews and ground ambulances from the region.

Letterkenny hospital appealed to the public not to attend its emergency department unless it was urgent.

The hospital initiated its major emergency standby protocol earlier on Friday. It stood down the protocol late on Friday night.

In a statement, the hospital said: “The hospital continues to treat those injured in the incident at Creeslough, Co Donegal, and remains on hand to provide all necessary medical assistance required.” Applegreen Ireland directing manager Fiona Matthews said the company was “deeply saddened and shocked to learn the devastating news that lives have been lost in today’s tragic incident”.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with the families and friends of the deceased, those who have been injured, and the wider Creeslough community,” she said.

“Creeslough is a small village and the supermarket and Applegreen outlet operated by our local partners there are at the heart of the community.

“Like the rest of Ireland, tonight we stand in solidarity with that community.” Ireland’s deputy premier Leo Varadkar described the incident as “tragic”.

In a post on Twitter, Mr Varadkar wrote: “Terrible news from Donegal tonight.

Emergency services continue their work at the scene of an explosion at Applegreen service station in the village of Creeslough in Co Donegal, where at least three people have died. Picture date: Saturday October 8, 2022.
Emergency services continue their work at the scene of an explosion at Applegreen service station in the village of Creeslough in Co Donegal, where at least three people have died. Picture date: Saturday October 8, 2022.

“Our thoughts are with all those affected by the tragic events and with the emergency services responding.” 

Nina Gabel, 35, who was at the cordon on Friday evening, described distressing scenes.

“There was one woman who didn’t know where her daughter was and she was very upset,” she told PA.

“There are emergency services everywhere, there were so many gardaí and fire engines.

“What looked like local farmers’ tractors were helping to dig out the rubble.” 

A local hotel stopped taking bookings from members of the public on Friday to ensure all spare rooms were held for first responders.

Emergency services continue their work at the scene of an explosion at Applegreen service station in the village of Creeslough in Co Donegal, where seven people have now been confirmed dead. Picture date: Saturday October 8, 2022.
Emergency services continue their work at the scene of an explosion at Applegreen service station in the village of Creeslough in Co Donegal, where seven people have now been confirmed dead. Picture date: Saturday October 8, 2022.

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