‘Our worst fears’ – heartbreak as teenage girl is first victim of Creeslough explosion in Donegal to be named

THE first victim of the Donegal explosion has been named locally as teenager Leona Harper.

etterkenny Rugby Club has tonight paid tribute to the schoolgirl who they described as “an important part” of their under 14 team.


Michael Martin visits Creeslough picture by Mark Condren

“We are heartbroken to say our worst fears have been confirmed. Leona Harper tragically lost her life yesterday in Creeslough,” the club said in a statement.

They offered condolences to her parents, siblings and teammates.

“There are no words that feel strong enough at a moment of deep sorrow such as this,” the club added.

A child believed to be five, another teenager, four men and three women were also among the fatalities after an explosion ripped through a petrol station in Creeslough.  

The small village has been plunged into a tragedy of unspeakable horror. A gas leak is thought to be the most likely cause of the disaster, which destroyed the village’s only shop, as well as apartments overhead.

Ten candles were tonight lit during a church service in memory of those killed in the Creeslough tragedy.

Taoiseach Michael Martin, Tanaiste Leo Varadkar and Sinn Fein leader Mary Lou McDonald were among those who attended the service in St Michael’s church in the Donegal village.

Northern Ireland’s First Minister Michelle O’Neill was also in attendance.

Parish priest Father John Joe Duffy told the packed church the candles would remain lit for the next week in honour of those who died in the explosion on Friday afternoon at the local Applegreen service station.

Prayers were also said at the service for the eight people injured in the blast who are still being treated in hospital.


Taoiseach Micheal Martin speaks to Sinn Fein leader, Mary Lou McDonald, at the scene of the explosion at Applegreen service station in the village of Creeslough in Co Donegal. Photo credit: Brian Lawless/PA Wire

Members of the gardai and the emergency crews who worked at the scene of the explosion also attended tonight’s service.

Father Duffy said the local community owed them a great debt of gratitude.


Emergency services at the scene after an explosion at a service station in Creeslough, Co Donegal Pic:Mark Condren 8.10.2022

He also praised the support received from emergency services in Northern Ireland.

Gardai say eight people are in hospital, with one in a critical condition and the other seven stable.

The search operation has concluded and it is believed there are no other people left among the wreckage.

“Based on the information available to an Garda Síochána, at this time it is not expected that there will be any further casualties located,” a garda spokesman said this afternoon.

“There are no outstanding reports of unaccounted for persons.

Coroner Dr Denis McCauley and Superintendent David Kelly sat the cene of an explosion at a service station in Creeslough, Co Donegal Pic:Mark Condren 8.10.2022

“The 10 casualties are four men, three women, two teenagers(a boy and a girl) and a younger girl.

“The thoughts of all the emergency service personnel who attended the scene over the last 24 hours, the local community in Creeslough and the nation are today with the deceased and their families.”

A statement this evening from gardai read: “The Garda Technical Bureau have commenced an examination of the scene, with assistance from other expert agencies including the health and safety authority and national utility companies.

The local Corner and the Office of the State Pathologist have been notified and post-mortem examinations will take place over the coming days.

“Garda Family Liaison Officers have been appointed and are providing support and information to those impacted by this incident.”

A large team of emergency personnel and volunteers worked through the night and this afternoon in an attempt to rescue anyone still in what remains of the Applegreen store in Creeslough and a number of apartments above the shop.

Taoiseach Micheal Martin speaks to Sinn Fein’s Pearse Doherty, TD for Donegal South West, at the scene of an explosion at Applegreen service station in the village of Creeslough in Co Donegal, where ten people have now been confirmed dead. Picture date: Saturday October 8, 2022. PA Photo. Irish police confirmed the fatalities as search efforts continued at the site of the blast for others feared missing following the devastating blast on Friday afternoon. The Applegreen service station and surrounding buildings sustained extensive damage in the incident. See PA story IRISH Donegal . Photo credit should read: Brian Lawless/PA Wire

Sniffer dogs were also assisting with the search.

A major incident alert remains in place at Letterkenny General Hospital and a special area has been set up within the hospital for the injured and their families.

Fire and ambulances from Northern Ireland were among the emergency teams which responded to the explosion.

Earlier, diggers were carefully lifting debris from the the destroyed buildings.

Speaking at the scene this morning, one of the rescue team praised the response to the tragedy.

“Within minutes, workers from local companies arrived on the scene with diggers and have worked all through the night,” he said.

“It is such a tragic event but it’s times like these when people come together to support each other.”

Local woman Marie Duffy said the whole community is numbed with grief.

“Creeslough is a small place, and everybody knows everybody,” Ms Duffy said.

“There is only one shop in the town, and everybody uses it, especially on a Friday people are doing their shopping and using the Post Office.

“You hear about things like this on the news, but you never ever think it will happen in a place like Creeslough.

“We are a typical rural Irish town everybody knows everybody, and everybody supports everyone.

“Even those who may not have been directly impacted have been indirectly affected because it is our neighbours, friends, and relations.

“This is not a tragedy for the families; it is a tragedy for us all.

“There are no real words for this.

“I work away during the week. I was driving home as it was all unfolding. I was driving up from Cavan. I would pull over every so often, and it would just get worse,” she added.

A special Mass was held in the village’s church this morning to pray for those killed and injured in the explosion.

At one point around 10.30pm last night, rescue workers stopped all the machinery and blew whistles to signal a period of utter silence during which they hoped to hear possible survivors in the debris of the Applegreen service station and apartments.

The mother of a child believed to be trapped inside described to the Irish Independent how she was originally told her daughter was dead, only to be told later that it was not her daughter who had been found near the entrance of the shop and she remains missing.

The distraught woman paced up and down past the garda cordon trying to ask each passing emergency service person if they had news of her child.

She stood for hours in the cold, waiting to know if her child was dead or alive.

She told the Irish Independent she had rung all the hospitals seeking information but the teenager had not been transported to Letterkenny, Altnagelvin or Sligo hospitals.

The woman said she had to tell her husband first that their daughter was dead and to make his way to Letterkenny hospital where she believed her remains had been taken.

She then had to tell him she was not dead but missing and to search for her among the injured in the hospital.

Amid the chaos, the family of another woman was told she had been found conscious in the forecourt and was on her way to hospital, only to later be told it was not her and she was ­unaccounted for.


An aerial view of the devastation in Creeslough, Co Donegal. Photo: NW Newspix

Taoiseach Micheál Martin described it as the “darkest of days for Donegal and the entire country”. 

Mr Martin also vowed that the entire resources of the State will be put behind the shocked Creeslough community as he confirmed he now intends to visit the scene of the tragedy.

The Taoiseach, speaking in Cork as he opened the Carrigaline relief road, also paid a moving tribute to the emergency services who had fought heroically to rescue the trapped and injured.

“I think the entire nation is shocked at what has happened – it is an unspeakable tragedy,” he said.

Helicopters airlifted survivors from the scene, and ambulances ferried the injured and the dead to Letterkenny Hospital.

The blast, which is believed to have originated in one of the apartments, happened at around 3.15pm.

Such was the ferocity of the explosion, it was heard several kilometres away.

It collapsed the roof of the two-storey apartments and blanketed the forecourt in rubble and glass. The site includes a petrol station, shop, deli counter, post office and a hairdresser.

At the time of the explosion there were groups of schoolchildren inside.

Up to 30 people are believed to have been injured, some severely.

Liam McElhinney, chairman of St Michael’s GAA club in Creeslough, confirmed some of the club’s members were killed in the explosion.

“Our club is at the heart of the community and so was the shop,” he said.

“To come down yesterday and to see the devastation that the blast caused and to see people standing around not knowing if their loved ones were alive or dead was a total shock for the community.”

Mr McElhinney, who had been in the Applegreen store just 45 minutes before the explosion, said the GAA club would play a key role in supporting the local community.

“We will put our action plan in place from tomorrow on. We will have the clubhouse open this week for any help that is required for the children because unfortunately I think there are children involved in this tragedy.

“We will be there to help the parents and the children because, like a lot of small-knit communities, the GAA is at the hub of the community.

“It is going to take years to get over this. People talk about days and weeks but it’s going to take years, but we will stick together. We are a tight community.”

Parish priest Father John Joe Duffy told the packed congregation at this morning’s special mass that the small village had been hit by a “tsunami of grief”.

“We pray at this Mass for all those who have been impacted directly by this terrible tragedy that has pretty much broken the heart of our community,” said Father Duffy.

“We are very much defined by community. Our community has been a great source of support and strength to those who have been directly impacted by the terrible tragedy that took place yesterday.

“Our community continues to be that support as we pray for those who are dead and their families and loved ones and as we pray for those who are in hospital and undergoing procedures this morning.

“We are indeed broken hearted this morning.

“We are people who will continue to support each other.

“There is, as we all can feel, a terrible grief and a sadness beyond words in our hearts this morning. But we know that God is with us in this tragedy. God will support us, God will help us and we will help each other, we will link with each other. We will carry each other and God is carrying us.“


Emergency services personnel from both sides of the border were working under floodlights through the night. Photo: Mark Condren

Families desperately looked on as rescuers used specialist equipment to try to locate those trapped under the debris.

The blast came out of the blue on a bright autumn afternoon when locals and visitors to the glamping site across the road would normally have been milling around the busy community hub.

Emergency services from both sides of the border worked under floodlights through the night to try to locate and rescue those feared still trapped inside.

The service station and adjoining post office is run by the well-known and respected Lafferty family.

The complex, which sits at the entrance to the village coming from the Termon direction, contains several apartments above the service station’s shop which house a number of young families.

Large parts of the facade of the upstairs apartment complex were ripped off during the explosion, and the roof collapsed, along with the roof of the service station, while several cars were damaged by masonry propelled by the force of the blast.

Inside the apartments ­passers-by could see beds and pictures hanging from walls.


The scene of a suspected gas explosion beside the Applegreen station in Cresslough Co.Donegal Photo: Brian McDaid

One local man who lives just a kilometre from the scene said he was thrown from his seat as he worked at his desk.

“I couldn’t believe the power of it and I didn’t know what had happened. We drove into town and it was just carnage,” he said.

“There was no ambulances or gardaí at the scene at that stage because it had literally just happened.

“I saw one person on the ground.

“Miraculously we saw another man in the upstairs apartment and he actually wasn’t injured at all, and he came down on a ladder.”

President Michael D Higgins described the incident as a “terrible blow to the community”.

“All of our thoughts must go out to all of those who have been affected. 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.

“Special tribute must be paid to those members of the local community and emergency services across the island who have reacted so swiftly to the scene of the explosion and have continued to work through the night,” he added.

Applegreen managing director Fiona Matthews extended the firm’s sympathies last night.

“We are deeply saddened and shocked to learn the devastating news that lives have been lost in today’s tragic incident at Applegreen Creeslough in Co Donegal. Our thoughts and prayers are with the families and friends of the deceased, those who have been injured, and the wider Creeslough community,” she said.

“Creeslough is a small village and the supermarket and Applegreen outlet operated by our local partners there are at the heart of the community. Like the rest of Ireland, tonight we stand in solidarity with that community.”

https://www.independent.ie/irish-news/news/our-worst-fears-heartbreak-as-teenage-girl-is-first-victim-of-donegal-explosion-to-be-named-42049887.html ‘Our worst fears’ – heartbreak as teenage girl is first victim of Creeslough explosion in Donegal to be named

Fry Electronics Team

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