IT remains Ireland’s
most notorious road crash. But the accident that
claimed the lives of eight Co Donegal men on July
11, 2010, was also one of the worst single tragedies
ever to befall the rural peninsula of Inishowen.
Among the men who died in the accident were
good-natured sons; go-to brothers; a quiet uncle,
soccer team-mates and boyfriends that might one day
The seven young pals who piled into their friend
Shaun Kelly’s car than fateful night, were heading
one way, pensioner Hughie Friel, the other.
Opposite directions on the same well-worn rural
One direction offered the promise of more fun to be
eked out of World Cup final night – an event that
comes but once in four years. Hughie’s direction was
for home as he quietly celebrated his modest 65 euro
win at the parish bingo.
Where the men’s paths intersected that night would
result in scenes of carnage that were never before
witnessed by veteran emergency personnel. Meanwhile,
news of the horror collision spread like a Mexican
wave through the peninsula, breaking by dawn like a
tsunami in the victims’ native parishes.
The following week, the priests of the area had to
carefully choreograph eight funerals to allow
mourners crisscross a peninsula, barely a part of
which was untouched by the tragedy - then as today.
Paul Doherty (19)
Paul Doherty was a young mechanic and lorry driver
from Ardagh, Ballyliffin. He was one of five
children and he loved to brag that he was a better
welder than his dad. Paul was remembered as a young
man "full of energy and full of life" who enjoyed
country music. His prized car was an Audi A4.
Gifts brought to the
altar during his funeral mass included a copy of
Auto Trader, a boiler suit and a spanner. Paul
Doherty’s grave lies side-by-side with that of his
childhood friend Ciaran Sweeney who also died in the
Ciaran Sweeney (19)
Ciaran Sweeney was a butcher’s apprentice from
Ballyliffin. At the time of the accident he was
going out with Catherine Anne Kelly – younger sister
of the accused driver, Shaun Kelly. Ciaran was one
of four children.
He enjoyed music
festivals such as Oxegen and the annual music
festival in his home village. He went to the
festivals more for "the craic" than the music.
Mark McLaughlin (21)
Mark McLaughlin only ever wanted to drive a lorry
for a living. The 21-year old from Ballinahone,
Fahan, was delighted when he eventually got his own
eight-wheeled articulated truck. Mark was one of two
Mourners at his funeral
were told that he never missed a day's work, was
dependable and could always work on his own
initiative. He would work from early morning until
late at night if required.
PJ McLaughlin (21)
PJ McLaughlin always wanted to be famous. But as one
of the eight victims of Ireland's worst road crash,
tragically it would be for the wrong reasons. He was
one of five children from Rockstown, Burnfoot, and
was a "bit of a showman" who loved fashion. PJ loved
working on cars.
He was also a striker
for Inishowen league club, Illies Celtic FC. Among
the gifts brought to the altar during his funeral
mass were a soccer jersey and a photo of a BMW car.
James McEleney (23)
James McEleney from Meenaduff, Clonmany, was "a
joker" whose version of 'The Full Monty' was
legendary. He was one of six children and worked for
a guttering contractor. In the days leading up to
the accident, he had painted the outside of his
mother's house and had filled the shed with turf.
James loved country
music and his favourite singer was Mike Denver.
Denver and his band travelled to sing at James'
Eamonn McDaid (22)
Eamonn McDaid was one of five children from
Ballymagan, Buncrana. He worked as a mechanic and
carpenter. He was a midfielder at Inishowen soccer
club, Illies Celtic FC where one of his team-mates
was PJ McLaughlin, who also died in the accident.
Eamonn was "wild for
craic" and his laugh was infectious, his funeral
heard. He loved cars and would have driven the
length of the country at the drop of a hat.
Damien McLaughlin was a carpenter from Umricam,
Buncrana. He was one of five children and was the
second cousin of Mark McLaughlin (21) who also died
in the crash. Damien had just bought a new work van
and had invited his friends around to see it in the
hours before the crash.
Friends described him
as “a lovely, hardworking fella”.
Hughie Friel (66)
Hughie Friel from Urris, Clonmany, was a bachelor
farmer and pensioner. He always wore a flat cap and
was known as someone who would do anyone a good
turn. Parish priest Fr Fintan Diggin recalled that
Hughie’s life revolved around working the land and
helping his neighbours.
His only distraction
was the parish bingo, from where he was returning
when the crash happened. Hughie left behind five
siblings and a nephew.