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‘The stuff of nightmares’: Tragic Donegal quartet were on farewell night out

Four friends killed in a horrific car crash in Donegal were saying goodbye to each other as one prepared to start a job abroad next week.

John Harley, Shaun Harkin, and Mícheál Roarty were out with Daniel Scott, who was due to leave for work in Denmark next week when tragedy struck on Sunday evening.

(Left to right) Michael Roarty, John Hanley, Daniel Scott and Shaun Harkin.

The four pals were killed when the Toyota Corolla car they were travelling in left the road near Magheraroarty around 8.40pm.

It is understood the car flipped over onto its roof and that all four men were killed instantly following the crash in the townland of Gleannhulaigh.

The men have been named as Mícheál Roarty, 24, from Dunlewey; John Harley, 24, from Falcarragh; Shaun Harkin, 22, from Falcarragh; and Daniel Scott, from Gortahork, also in his 20s.

Gardaí sealed off the road on Sunday night following the horrific crash on the rugged country road between Gortahork and Gaoth Dobhair. The emergency services were on the scene within minutes but all four men were pronounced dead at the scene a short time later.

One of the first people on the scene was local priest Fr Brian Ó Fearraigh, who described the scene as “the stuff of nightmares”.

“To look down into the valley where the accident happened and to see the sirens and to go to the scene was just the stuff of nightmares,” he said. “Communities have been plunged into sadness by what happened. Words fall silent. And then relatives of those in the crash began to arrive and we just stood there and hugged.”

Fr Ó Fearraigh also spoke of the resilience of the local community and how they will come together to rally behind the families of those who have lost loved ones.

He also paid a special tribute to all those in the emergency services who are sometimes forgotten in such grief and trauma.

The garda leading the investigation into the crash has appealed for information about the movements of the men’s car before the tragedy. Superintendent David Kelly appealed for any sightings of the car before the crash or throughout the day.

“As you can imagine, it was nine o’clock at night and it was dark,” said Supt Kelly. “It was a tragic scene. Family members arrived and so there was good work done by all the emergency services in difficult conditions.

"I would like to make an appeal to the public and to the local community. If anybody saw that silver Toyota Corolla 01DL travelling in the direction of Magheraroarty Sunday evening prior to 8.40pm or indeed earlier in the day please contact the gardaí at Milford Garda Station.”

The principal of Pobolscoil Chloich Cheannfhaola in Falcarragh, Maeve Sweeney, said three of the four men attended the school at different stages.

She told RTÉ: “They were three lovely lads — gentlemen is how we would describe them, many people have fond memories of them this morning — staff members, people in the school community.

"Shaun went to LYIT qualifying as an electrician, Daniel went to LYIT in Letterkenny and he became a civil engineer, he was taking up a new post in Denmark, within the next week, and John Harley would have gone to Sligo IT and he was also working as an electrician.”

Chief Superintendent Finbarr Murphy of the Garda National Roads Policing Bureau said: “An Garda Síochána is deeply saddened by the horrific death toll on Irish roads over the past week. I want to take this opportunity to send our condolences to all of those affected by these tragic events.

“An Garda Síochána views any road death as one too many and we will continue to work together with our partners in road safety to build on the reduction in road deaths evidenced over the past number of years.”

“While we welcome the reduction of fatalities that we have witnessed over the past two years, events over the past week demonstrate that we cannot afford to be complacent in any manner and I appeal to all roads users to be extra vigilant — in particular on dark evenings and while using unlit or poorly lit roads. Be safe, be seen, be careful and be on the alert for other road users. (It is not appropriate to comment at this time on recent fatal collisions as they are subject to forensic collision investigations).”

Moyagh Murdock, chief executive of the Road Safety Authority, said: “We have had a dreadful week on our roads. Ten lives lost, four alone in a single collision in Co. Donegal. I hope that this appalling loss of life will serve as a reminder to us all that life is fragile and using the roads is the most dangerous thing we do each day.

“Nobody ever believes it will happen to them but tragedy can strike anywhere at any time on the road. We need to remember this every time we set out on a journey.”