Creeslough: Ten dead after Donegal petrol station explosionon October 8, 2022 at 8:41 pm

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Four men, three women, a teenage boy and girl, and a young child are among the dead, police confirm.

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Ten people have died after a huge explosion at a petrol station in County Donegal.

Four men, three women, a teenage boy and girl, and a young child were killed, gardaí (Irish police) said.

The explosion happened at an Applegreen service station in the village of Creeslough on Friday afternoon.

Eight people are in hospital, one is critically ill. Police said their information so far pointed towards a tragic accident.

The blast destroyed the building and a section of an apartment building.

Emergency services held a moment’s silence in memory of those killed during a press conference on Saturday afternoon.

Although police remain at the scene, they do not expect to find anyone else.

Creeslough is a small village in the Republic of Ireland and is about 15 miles from Letterkenny and 30 miles from the border with Northern Ireland. It has a population of about 400 people.

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Garda Supt David Kelly described the explosion as a tragedy for the community which has left families devastated.

He paid tribute to those killed and praised emergency services who assisted them from Donegal and Northern Ireland.

“That is what it is to be in Donegal, we look out for each other,” he said.

“Forgive me if I get a bit emotional, you’re dealing with the public you know.

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“But I would say in terms of what we did … at this point in this time we have to keep an open mind as a police service in how we are investigate this.

“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’re going at the moment.”

Garry Martin, director of emergency services for Donegal County Council, said 65 fire service personnel were dispatched to the scene across Friday and Saturday.

Aerial view of Applegreen in Creeslough

“Our primary focus yesterday was to lead on the search and recovery of the injured and to stabilise what was a substantially-damaged building including many displaced and broken concrete slabs,” he said.

JJ McGowan, chief ambulance officer in the western region, confirmed one of the eight people injured in the explosion is in a critical condition and has been taken to a Dublin hospital.

The seven others are stable in Letterkenny hospital.

“The National Ambulance Service allocated a total of eight emergency ambulances yesterday and three this morning,” Mr McGowan said.

From 12:00 midday, counselling and other services were put in place at Creeslough Community Day Care Centre.

‘Tsunami of grief’

people coming out of mass in Creeslough

Earlier, the Taoiseach (Irish Prime Minister), Micheál Martin, said it was an “unspeakable tragedy”.

“The entire nation is shocked at what has happened,” he said.

Mr Martin made a special mention of the fire and emergency crews from Northern Ireland who, he said, came quickly and willingly to help.

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

The founder and chief executive of Applegreen, Joe Barrett, said Friday was a “very dark day for Creeslough, for Donegal, for Ireland” and 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,” Mr Barrett said.

“We are utterly shocked and saddened at what happened yesterday.”

The local church in Creeslough held Mass on Saturday morning for the community.

Father John Joe Duffy told the congregation that their community has been hit by “a tsunami of grief”.

Catholic Bishop Alan McGuckian has visited the County Donegal village.

Describing the “darkest day in Donegal”, he urged all parishes in the diocese of Raphoe to come together to pray at Mass this weekend.

“Last night I went to Creeslough to offer pastoral support. I met and prayed with family members who are in terrible shock and pain,” he said.

“I have witnessed at first hand the immediate reaction of the local community to the tragedy who, in their bravery, took risks at the site to help others even to the detriment of their own safety.

firemen at scene of Creeslough incident

Local Sinn Féin politician Pearse Doherty said the community in Creeslough “will be forever changed”.

“It has affected so many and it has been said how close-knit this community is,” Mr Doherty said.

“The community is just in shock, we’re just numb and there are broken hearts all over.

“There are many people in this community that will see wakes and funerals… and that trauma is going to last a long time. “

PSNI Chief Constable Simon Byrne tweeted on Saturday morning to pay tribute to those dealing with the tragedy.


‘They listened for signs of anyone trapped’

Chris Page

A tragedy on this scale is really something this tight-knit rural community could never have imagined.

There is just such a sense of disbelief in Creeslough.

All that is left of the shop and the flats above is just a crumpled mess of rubble.

The emergency services worked through the night.

At times they asked for complete silence around them while they listened for signs of anyone trapped.

The cause of the explosion is still not known, but police are working on the theory it was perhaps a gas explosion.

Locals say it happened at a time when the shop would have been busy because local schools had just finished for the day.

fireman at scene of Creeslough incident

The manager of Letterkenny General Hospital, Sean Murphy, said it was an “unbelievably tragic and sad day” for the community and county.

Speaking on RTÉ’s Morning Ireland, Mr Murphy paid tribute to the work of staff at the hospital, as well as community and care services in the area.

Mr Murphy said they admitted a number of children, but did not want to go into detail.

Liam McElhinney, chairperson of the local Gaelic Athletic Association club in Creeslough, Naomh Michaeál, said he had visited the shop a short while before the incident.

Map of Creeslough

“I was in shock when the news came through. I myself had just left the shop at half two so it just shows you could be in the wrong place at the wrong time,” he said.

“Some of the people that have died are known personally by myself and it’s very hard to watch.

“It could have been any of us… it’s a massive thing to happen in our community and it’ll take a long time to get over it.”

firemen at scene of Creeslough incident

Meanwhile, Irish President Michael D Higgins said his thoughts and prayers were with those who have lost their lives, and their families.

In a statement, President Higgins said: “May I, as president, express what I know will be the shock shared by all people throughout the country on learning of the terrible tragedy which has unfolded in Creeslough, County Donegal.”

The scene outside the patrol station

Local resident Kieran Gallagher’s house is about 150 yards from the scene.

“I was in my house at the time and heard the explosion. Instantly I knew it was something – it was like a bomb going off,” he said.

Donegal Fine Gael TD (Member of the Irish parliament the Dáil) Joe McHugh said people in the area were “numb” with shock.

“It’s a very surreal situation here and we know there will be difficult times ahead,” he said.

Bishop of Raphoe, Alan McGuckian, told BBC News NI everyone in the county was “shocked and shaken beyond words”.

Speaking from the scene, he said Creeslough was a “peaceful and quiet town” and it was a “terrible day”.

Damage to Applegreen

Image source, TG4

The Shandon Hotel in Dunfanaghy said some of its team members had been “directly affected” by the incident and was reserving spare rooms for first responders.

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