By James Ward and Jonathan McCambridge, PA
A candlelight vigil was held in a Cork harbour town last night for a bus driver and priest who were killed in a collision yesterday.
The Irish Examiner reports that prayers will also be offered in Passage West and Monkstown today for the two victims, who were named locally last night as bus driver Mark Wills, who was in his 50s, and Fr Con Cronin, a curate in Passage West, who was in his late 60s.
Gardaí say they are investigating whether the driver of the 216 Monkstown to Cork University Hospital (CUH) Bus Éireann service suffered a medical trauma behind the wheel causing him to lose control of the vehicle.
The collision happened on the Strand Road in Monkstown in Cork Harbour on Tuesday when the bus collided with pedestrian Fr Cronin and a number of parked vehicles.
The well-known priest in the harbour parishes of Passage West and Monkstown, who was originally from the Borlin Valley near Bantry, was pronounced dead at the scene.
I pray for healing and peace for all who were injured and those who witnessed the accident
The Bishop of Cork and Ross, Dr Fintan Gavin, said Fr Cronin would be remembered for his sense of humour and openness to people.
He said: “We have learned with utter shock and sadness of the untimely death of Fr Con Cronin.
“Our heartfelt thoughts and prayers go to Fr Con’s family, his wide circle of friends, parishioners and his fellow priests in the St Patrick’s Missionary Society, Kiltegan, as well as the priests of the Diocese of Cork and Ross.
“This tragic accident also leaves another family mourning the loss of a loved one and I extend my prayerful support to his family also.”
Dr Gavin continued: “I pray for healing and peace for all who were injured and those who witnessed the accident. I wish to acknowledge the professionalism and kindness of the emergency services who attended the accident scene.
“Fr Con has served in the Harbour Parishes since 2012, establishing a warm rapport both pastorally and personally with all to whom he ministered and all who had contact with him.
“He will be remembered fondly for his unique sense of humour and his openness to all people.”
Lunch with parishioner
Fr Cronin was ordained in 1979 and had ministered in Africa for 25 years before returning to Ireland in 2004.
Locals have told the PA News Agency that Fr Cronin was having lunch with a parishioner, and pushed her out of the way of the oncoming vehicle as it lost control and veered towards them.
Local independent councillor Marcia D’Alton said: “It sounds like this has been the most unbelievable tragedy.
“He was a man the like of whom one would rarely meet in one’s lifetime. A spacious man, a man who had room for everybody in his heart, churchgoers and non-church goers alike, it made no difference.
“He was everybody’s genuine friend.”
The vehicle involved in the incident was a single-deck Bus Éireann service serving the Cork city area.
Bus Éireann chief executive, Stephen Kent, said: “Bus Éireann extends the deepest sympathies of the entire company to the family and friends of the two people who died in a serious collision in Monkstown, Cork, one of them being a long-standing and greatly valued employee based at the Capwell depot.
“This is a very tragic event. This is a terrible and sad day for everyone at Bus Éireann, and we are all heavy-hearted.
“Our thoughts are with the families and communities affected by this loss. We would like sincerely to thank the emergency services for all their work and assistance and our own employees who responded at the scene.”
He said Bus Éireann would be putting in place support measures for employees impacted.
Shocking news from Monkstown. A horrific & tragic accident. A devastating blow to the community in Monkstown and Passage West. RIP to the pedestrian and driver. https://t.co/Ca1uYfo35i
— Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire (@Donnchadhol) August 3, 2021
Local politicians responded to news of the crash.
Public Expenditure Minister, Michael McGrath, said: “Tragic, awful news emerging from Monkstown village this afternoon.
“My thoughts and prayers are with the victims and the families. The lower harbour community is very close-knit and will rally round in every possible way.”
Sinn Féin TD Donnchadh O’Laoghaire tweeted: “Shocking news from Monkstown. A horrific & tragic accident.”
Fine Gael Senator Jerry Buttimer tweeted: “Awful sad news from Monkstown. My thoughts and prayers are with the victims & their families. This is so tragic.
“A devastating blow to the community in Monkstown and Passage West. RIP to the pedestrian and driver.”
Gardaí in Togher are appealing for any witnesses to the collision to come forward.
Meanwhile, gardaí are also investigating a fatal collision in Co Monaghan.
Two cars collided near Castleblayney on Tuesday at approximately 6.40am.
The driver of one car, a man in his 20s, was seriously injured and died later in hospital.