Death toll from Donegal blast reaches 10, two teenagers and child among dead

The explosion happened at a service station in Creeslough, Co Donegal on Friday afternoon
Death toll from Donegal blast reaches 10, two teenagers and child among dead

PA reporters

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

In a briefing shortly before 3pm, gardaí confirmed four men, three women, a teenage girl, a teenage boy and a girl of primary school age died in the blast in Creeslough.

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

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

Emergency services continue their work at the scene of an explosion at Applegreen service station in Creeslough, Co Donegal. Photo: PA

A major emergency recovery operation involving first responders from both sides of the 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 Síochána 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.”

Garda Superintendent David Kelly speaks to the media about the Creeslough service station explosion. Photo: PA

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.

People by nearby damaged buildings in Creeslough, where ten people have now been confirmed dead. Photo: PA

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.”

Explosion at Donegal service station
Emergency services continue their work at the scene. Photo: Brian Lawless/PA

President 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 said 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 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.”

Seven bodies have been found in the debris (Brian Lawless/PA)
A number of bodies were found in the debris. Photo: Brian Lawless/PA

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 PA.

“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.”

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

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

The Coast Guard said on Saturday morning that it was continuing to support emergency crews at the scene after working through the night.

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.

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.”

Tánaiste Leo Varadkar wrote on Twitter: “Terrible news from Donegal tonight.

“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 gardai 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.

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