The lives and loves of the 10 Creeslough locals lost in tragedy

Tributes have been paid to the victims of the explosion, who ranged from the age of five to 59.

THREE DAYS ON from the explosion in Creeslough, the local community – and indeed the rest of the country – is still struggling to comprehend the tragedy that occurred. 

The names and photographs of the 10 people who lost their lives in the blast were released yesterday. Among the victims were adults, teenagers, and a little girl aged just five.

Tributes have poured in from those in the locality who had known them, the small details about their lives giving us a sense of who they were, and what a loss they will be to their loved ones and their community. 

Books of condolences are being opened across the country today in tribute to the victims, while An Post and Irish Red Cross have announced donations can be made to help the stricken community at all post offices across the country starting today.

A man in his 20s remains in a critical condition at St James’s Hospital in Dublin, while seven other surviving casualties continue to receive treatment in Letterkenny University Hospital and remain in a stable condition.

Jessica Gallagher

Jessica Gallagher

24-year-old Jessica was a fashion and marketing graduate from the International Fashion Academy in Paris and also studied in Shanghai.

She had only recently moved to Belfast and had been due to start a new job today.

Jessica was visiting her boyfriend’s apartment above the Applegreen service station when the explosion happened. He was also injured.

Her aunt Dolores Gallagher told Highland Radio that her niece was “as the photographs show, the most beautiful young woman”.

“She was very artistic, she qualified as a fashion designer. She was to start, finally, her job as a fashion designer today. Today was the day she was starting her new professional life as a fashion designer in Belfast and she had just finished her first commission,” she said.

She also spoke about Jessica’s pride and love for Creeslough.

She was so proud of and loved her locality, she loved Creeslough so much. And when she was a student in Paris, one of her assignments was to work on something from home and she produced a beautiful picture of Muckish in the moonlight. We took her remains home yesterday in the moonlight.

Aileen Nic Pháidín, a childhood friend of Jessica, told RTÉ News that she was “a lovely girl”. 

“I was really friendly with her when I was younger. We played the Wii, we would go back and forth to each other’s houses, baking together,” she said.

“Me and my brother would’ve been over a lot in her house and her mammy would’ve made us dinners every day. She was very good. Very good-hearted people.”

The secondary school that Jessica attended, Loreto Letterkenny, paid tribute to their “beautiful past pupil” in a social media post this morning. “May she rest in eternal peace. Sending love and deepest sympathy to  her family and the Creeslough community,” it read.

Jessica will be laid to rest in Doe Cemetery in Creeslough tomorrow morning following her funeral mass at St. Michael’s Church at 11am.

James O’Flaherty

James O'Flaherty

Originally from Sydney, Australia, James had been living in Dunfanaghy in Donegal for some time. He worked as an engineer managing large projects around the world and had worked in Australia, France, the UK and the US.

James is survived by his wife Tracey, his son Hamish, brother John and other extended family. He was predeceased by his parents Brendan and Stella O’Flaherty.

The funeral mass for the 48-year-old will take place at 11am at St Mary’s Church in Derrybeg on Wednesday morning, followed by his burial at Magheragallon Cemetery.

Martin McGill

Martin McGill

Martin, aged 49, grew up in Kirkintilloch, north of Glasgow in East Dunbartonshire, and was an avid supporter of Celtic Football Club. 

He had lived in Creeslough for years and was a carer for his elderly mother, Mary. 

It is understood he had ordered his dinner in the local takeaway and had gone to the service station to withdraw cash when the explosion occurred.

Local pharmacist Fergus Brennan told RTÉ News that Martin was “such a special, loveable and friendly young man, very well known and liked around Creeslough”.

“As a pharmacy team, Martin was a very regular visitor to the pharmacy – sometimes daily, sometimes more than once a day – because Martin was a carer for his elderly mum, who has health challenges. He was a devoted son,” he said. 

Brennan said Martin’s mother had called the pharmacy to see if he had come in. He said one of his workers went to the service station and saw that Martin’s car was on the forecourt.

Martin is survived by his mother Mary, sisters Marie Louise and Caroline, brothers in law, Mathew and Iain, nieces and nephews and extended family and friends. He was predeceased by his father Joseph.

Martin’s funeral mass will be held at St Michael’s Church in Creeslough at 2pm tomorrow followed by a burial in Doe Cemetery. 

Catherine O Donnell and James Monaghan

Catherine O'Donnell and James Monaghan

Catherine, aged 39, and her 13-year-old son James were in the queue at the post office inside the shop at the service station when the blast happened. 

James had just finished school for the week at nearby Mulroy College in Milford and had met his mother in the post office after he got off the school bus. Leona Harper, who also died in the tragedy, was a pupil at the same school.

A statement from Mulroy College said the students, staff and parents “are in deep shock after the tragic events of Friday in Creeslough”.

“It is with deepest regret that we advise that two of our students, James Monaghan and Leona Harper, and two mothers of students enrolled in our school, Catherine O Donnell and Martina Martin, were among the fatalities,” the statement read. 

“There were also a number of our students who incurred injuries at the scene. Our deepest sympathies are with the families who have tragically lost a loved one following Friday’s incident in Creeslough. We also hope that all those injured will make a full recovery.”

School principal Fiona Temple said the school community is “devastated on hearing of the tragedy and the fatal outcome for our two beautiful students and our cherished parents.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with all the families and the Creeslough community at this time. We are numbed by this overwhelming sadness and will work together to support all members of our school community in the coming days, weeks and months ahead,” she said.

A notice on reads: “Catherine will be sadly missed by her beloved daughter Sinead, mother Margaret, partner Charlie Flood, brothers, sisters, extended family and friends. Predeceased by her baby daughter Paige, and her father Edward (Ned).

“James will be sorely missed by his beloved father Chris Monaghan, Grandparents, Charlie, aunts, uncles, extended family and friends. Predeceased by his sister Paige.”

Catherine and James will be laid to rest in Doe Cemetery on Wednesday afternoon following a funeral mass at St Michael’s Church at 2pm.

Hugh Kelly

Hugh Kelly

Hugh was the eldest victim of the tragedy.

The 59-year-old worked as a farmer and occasionally as a labourer.

Better known in the village as Hughie, it is reported that he lived near the scenic Doe Castle, around 3km away from Creeslough. 

Martina Martin

Martina Martin

Martina was from the Woodlands area of Letterkenny and worked in the shop in the Applegreen service station. 

The 49-year-old was a mother of four children. Her sons Sean and Neil were in attendance at a vigil in the Co Donegal village of Downings on Sunday night.

Martina and Catherine O’Donnell were both former pupils at Errigal College in Letterkenny. In a post shared on social media yesterday, the school said it was “heartbroken to hear of the tragic events in Creeslough on Friday.

“Today, as the victims are named, we mourn the loss of former students, Catherine O’Donnell and Martina Martin (née Russell),” the post read.

“We offer our deepest sympathies to their families, friends and all who loved them and to all affected by this tragedy. Ar dheis Dé go raibh a n-anamacha dílse.”

Robert Garwe and Shauna Flanagan Garwe

Robert 'Bob' Garwe

Shauna Flanagan Garwe

Robert and his five-year-old daughter Shauna, the youngest victim of the tragedy, were in the Applegreen shop buying a birthday cake for her mother.

Originally from Wedza in Zimbabwe, Robert worked in construction and previously lived in Dublin. Locals said the 50-year-old could often be seen travelling around the village on his scooter.

Shauna started school at Scoil Mhuire in Creeslough just weeks ago.

“Shauna was a playful, energetic little girl. Why we remember her is that she always asked for a lollipop, which is a tradition in community pharmacies,” Brennan told the BBC.

“Shauna was one of those children who always asked for a lollipop, and sometimes her mum would try and talk her out of it.

“Looking at her photograph as the names have been released just brings home the tragedy of a life cut short. A beautiful little girl along with her dad.”

Leona Harper

Leona Harper

14-year-old Leona lived in nearby Ramelton and studied at Mulroy College.

She had travelled to Creeslough for a sleepover at a friend’s house and is believed to have gone to the Applegreen shop to buy an ice cream.

Speaking on Highland Radio today, her parents spoke about their daughter and thanked those involved in her recovery.

“Leona was a little gem. She was very outgoing, very friendly, a lovely person, very quiet, laid-back, loved life, loved the outdoors, walking through fields, going fishing, spending time with friends, going to car shows,” Hugh Harper said.

She was very special, very, very special. She’s going to be very sorely missed.

Leona’s mother Donna thanked the digger driver who found her body after a 24-hour search.

“I didn’t personally know the digger driver – a massive thank you to him because he just didn’t stop until he got her,” she said.

“Twenty-four hours before we got her and she was the last taken out. The doctors and everything, everybody was amazing the way they treated the whole scene from start to finish with nothing more than respect.”

Leona played for the U14 Letterkenny Rugby Club girls team, where her father is also a coach.

In a statement, the club said: “To Leona’s parents, Hugh and Donna, her brothers Anthony and Jamie, and all of her teammates, we offer you our deepest condolences and support.

“There are no words that feel strong enough at a moment of deep sorrow such as this. Rest in peace, Leona,” the statement read. 

Leona was also a fan of Liverpool Football Club. Ahead of their match against Arsenal yesterday, an account for Liverpool supporters in Donegal paid tribute to Leona alongside a picture of her with her father, who is an Arsenal fan.

“Leona was a massive LFC fan and today should have been a day to enjoy with her family and dad Hugh with LFC taking on Arsenal. Our thoughts are with all in this very difficult time,” the message read.

The official Twitter account for Liverpool Football Club responded to the tribute, saying: “We are deeply saddened by the loss of Leona. Our thoughts are with her family and friends, as well as all those affected by Friday’s tragedy.”

Additional reporting from the Press Association

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