Bus crash horror
Bus crash horror

The crash of a school bus in County Meath in which five schoolgirls died has caused shock and grief across Ireland and raised questions about the safety of public transport.

Bus Éireann, the national state-owned bus company, operated the service in which students from various secondary schools in Navan, County Meath were being taken home.

The almost 13-year-old bus turned on its side near a temporary traffic light at a road works site. Two cars were also involved in the accident.

Meath County Council’s major emergency plan was activated after the accident and at least 14 ambulances and five units of fire brigade rushed to the scene from Meath, Drogheda and Dublin. Four Air Corps helicopters airlifted medical personnel to the scene. A total of 53 people were hospitalised.

The five schoolgirls who died were all good friends and from the area of Yellow Furze and Beauparc, around five miles from Navan.

Lisa Callan (15), Amy McCabe (15), Claire McCluskey (18) and Deirdre Scanlon (17) all attended St Michael’s Loreto Convent. Sinéad Ledwidge (15) attended nearby Beaufort College. They were all believed to have been sitting at the back of the bus, which appeared to take the worst of the impact.

There were emotional scenes at St Michael’s as students and teachers tried to come to terms with the deaths.

Bus Éireann confirmed there were no seat-belts on the bus. A spokeswoman said there was no requirement for vehicles of this size to be fitted with them.

Niall O’Connor, a spokesman for Our Lady of Lourdes hospital, said the absence of seat-belts may have “potentially contributed to the seriousness of the injuries”.

The President and the Taoiseach expressed their shock at the tragedy and offered their condolences to the relatives. Minister for Transport Martin Cullen cut short a visit to Moscow for a meeting of European transport ministers and returned home.

Taoiseach Bertie Ahern said that “a terrible and sudden tragedy” has been visited upon the families of the five young women.

“It is a tragedy shared by their schoolmates who were on that last fateful bus journey with them last evening. The whole local community and the whole country send their prayers and their heartfelt sympathies to the five families of these fine young girls.”

Sinn Féin’s leader in the Dáil, Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin, said the tragedy raised many questions, but for now TDs could do no more than express their sympathy. He paid tribute to the emergency services for their fast and efficient response.

Joe Higgins of the Socialist Party said everyone was profoundly shocked that “five young lives are snuffed out”.

After “a proper period of mourning there must be a serious debate on the safety of transport for schoolgoing children and youth”.

Green Party leader Trevor Sargent said to anyone involved it was a horrific crash, and the whole area had been left “in a state of numb shock and grieving heartbreak”.

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© 2005 Irish Republican News