Australian among 10 killed in Irish petrol station blast

Former Sydneysider James O'Flaherty was one of 10 killed in the petrol station blast.

Former Sydneysider James O'Flaherty was one of 10 killed in the petrol station blast. Photo: Facebook/An Garda Síochána

A 48-year-old former Sydney man is among 10 people killed in a massive explosion at a petrol station in Ireland.

Friday’s blast at the service station in Creeslough, a small village in north-west Ireland, is being treated by police as a “tragic accident”.

The huge explosion levelled the Applegreen service station’s building, damaged an adjacent apartment building and shattered the windows of nearby cottages.

It also claimed the lives of four men, three women, two teenagers – a boy and girl – and a girl of primary school age. Among them was James O’Flaherty, 48, who was originally from Sydney.

Mr O’Flaherty lived in the Donegal town of Dunfanaghy, and is survived by his wife and son. His funeral, one of the first following the tragic blast, will be held on Wednesday.

Ireland’s police force, An Garda Síochána, have also released the names and photos of the others who died.

All were from the wider Creeslough area. The youngest victim was aged just five, and the oldest 59.

They were Robert Garwe, 50, and his five-year-old daughter Shauna Flanagan Garwe; Jessica Gallagher, 24; Martin McGill, 48, Catherine O’Donnell, 39, and her 13-year-old son James Monaghan; Hugh Kelly, 59; Martina Martin, 49; and 14-year-old Leona Harper.

Eight people were hospitalised following the explosion – including one who was flown to Dublin in critical condition.

Mr Garwe and his young daughter had reportedly popped into the petrol station shop to buy a birthday cake for her mum when the blast happened.

Ms Harper’s father shared his grief on a Facebook post from the local rugby club, which described her as a “talented rugby player.

“The past 24 hours have been nothing short of hell,” he wrote.

“Leona loved rugby, although this year she was taking time out for boxing. But her first love was Letterkenny Rugby Club.”

Hundreds of people have gathered at vigils in memory of the dead.

One of the first was in the town of Milford, half an hour’s drive from the scene of the tragedy. Parents hugged their children, people carried candles, prayers were said and music was played, including a song called Creeslough, written and played by a local musician.

The vigil ended with the crowd singing Irish language hymn A Mhuire Mhathair.

Parish priest Father Stephen Gorman read a statement sent on behalf of Pope Francis, expressing his sadness at the loss of life and sending his condolences to the people of Ireland.

Later there were similar scenes in the town of Castlefinn.

Ireland’s premier, Taoiseach Micheal Martin, who visited the site of the explosion on Saturday night (local time), said the entire nation was mourning following the tragedy.

Mr Martin spoke to members of the emergency services who worked for 24 hours to locate victims.

Mr Martin also met those who were admitted to hospital. One man in his 20s remains in a critical condition at St James’s Hospital in Dublin.

The seven other surviving casualties continue to receive treatment in Letterkenny University Hospital and are in  stable conditions.

The remains of the victims are at the hospital in Letterkenny where autopsies will continue over the next few days.

Police said results will not be released for operational reasons.

Police and other agencies continue to examine the scene, which remains cordoned off.

“It is a huge impact for a small rural community – they were all local people, all very much involved in the community, all shopping in their local shop,” Garda Superintendent Liam Geraghty said.

“But it is a very strong community, as seen here on Friday afternoon … so I’m sure the community will come together and will support each other.”

Irish police believe the blast that ripped through the service station and convenience store and adjoining buildings was accidental.

-with AAP

Stay informed, daily
A FREE subscription to The New Daily arrives every morning and evening.
The New Daily is a trusted source of national news and information and is provided free for all Australians. Read our editorial charter
Copyright © 2024 The New Daily.
All rights reserved.