Northern Ireland news

These are the three teenagers who lost their lives in a St Patrick's Day disco crush

 (l-r) Connor Currie (16), Lauren Bullock (17) and Morgan Barnard (17) died following a crush outside a St Patrick's Day disco at the Greenvale Hotel in Cookstown
Claire Simpson, Connla Young, Brendan Hughes and Press Association

The three teenagers who died following a crush at a St Patrick's Day disco in Cookstown have been named as Lauren Bullock (17), Connor Currie (16) and Morgan Barnard (17).

The three died after a "large crowd" of revellers tried to get into the disco at the Greenvale Hotel in the Co Tyrone town.

Connor Currie and Morgan Barnard wree both from Dungannon and attended St Patrick's College in the town while Lauren Bullock was from Donaghmore and was a student at St Patrick's College, also in Dungannon.

PSNI Assistant Chief Constable Alan Todd said a specialist team of detectives has been assigned to the investigation into the tragedy which will have "potentially hundreds of witnesses, many of whom are teenagers".

He urged young people who were at the venue for the St Patrick's Day disco to get in touch and not to be deterred if they are under 18.

"We need to know what you saw. I can understand that there may be some reluctance to contact police if you are underage, but please do not be concerned. We are investigating the deaths of three young people, young people just like you. That is our focus. We want to be able to give their families answers and your recollection of the events as they unfolded is crucial."

It is understood one of the three victims died at the scene. One of the deceased died at Antrim Area Hospital, the other at Craigavon Area Hospital in Co Armagh.

A 16-year-old girl is in a stable condition in hospital, while a further two teenagers were treated for injuries they suffered during the incident.

Prayer service held at Dungannon school

One of the victims, Lauren Bullock (17), was a pupil at St Patrick's College in Dungannon. Connor Currie (16) and Morgan Barnard (17) were pupils of the neighbouring St Patrick's Academy.

A prayer service was held at the academy this afternoon. Parents and pupils attended the packed service, which lasted about half an hour. 

Education officials were also in attendance to offer further support to families. 

Read more: 

Lauren Bullock (17) was named locally as one of the three victims

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WHAT WE KNOW SO FAR

  • Lauren Bullock (17), Connor Currie (16) and Morgan Barnard (17) were the victims
  • The incident happened at around 9.30pm as teenagers were waiting for a St Patrick's Day disco to begin
  • Police say revellers fell during a crush at the front door of the hotel
  • Despite initial reports of a fight, the Ambulance Service said none of the victims' injuries were consistent with an altercation
  • The hotel's CCTV footage is being examined?

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Police at the entrance of the Greenvale Hotel in Cookstown, Co Tyrone 

Speaking this morning Assistant Chief Constable Mark Hamilton said: "Our preliminary investigations show there was a crush towards the front door of this hotel, and in that crush people seem to have fallen.

"There seemed to be a little bit of struggling going on to get people up off the ground and that might explain also why there was a report of some fighting."

He added: "It is a truly awful incident, heart-wrenching for everybody, particularly the families."

Emergency crews tried to resusciate the three fatally injured teenagers at the scene.

The senior officer added: "Everybody did their best for them last night but it is a truly appalling incident."

He added: "Unfortunately three are dead, the last person died this morning unfortunately with his parents near him."

 

He added: "We are of an open mind ... it looks like a crowd of young people, a large crowd, pushing up against the front of the hotel to get in to this event.

"People then seem to have fallen and then got crushed. I would urge you to use that with some caution. Certainly it appears to be at the minute a crush, people have fallen and then been fatally injured.

"We are continuing to interview people who were there to establish the full facts and I would appeal to anyone who witnessed what happened to contact police on 101 ext 52014.

"We need parents to talk to their children this morning and encourage them to come and tell us what happened. Please do not post photographs or videos online. Please share them with the PSNI."

The nightlife venue in Mid Ulster can take up to 500 people. Security camera footage is being examined.

Read more: How can three teenagers lose their lives waiting to go to a disco?

Nearby hotel staff 'in tears'

A manager at Glenavon Hotel, which is across the street from Greenvale, said: "As a fellow business in the town we're absolutely devastated for the town and the community. 

"I have had staff in tears this morning." 

The manager, who did not wish to be named, said police on the night of the tragedy had requested a defibrillator. 

They had also asked the Glenavon to make space available in case it was needed for any young people or their families. 

She said: "A policemen came and asked us for a defibrillator, which he was given, and went back over again.

"That was about quarter to 10. That was very early. I wasn't here myself. 

"The police had contacted the duty manager to ask would we have any facilities for families and friends. We said that was fine, we would make a room available."

She added: "People are just stunned, shocked and desperately saddened.

"We offer our condolences to the bereaved families."

Read more: 

No confirmed reports of a fight

Dr Nigel Ruddell, medical director of the Northern Ireland Ambulance Service, described the events as a "tragic accident".

He said six emergency ambulances, four emergency response doctors and four emergency officers attended the scene after receiving the emergency call at 9.26pm. He said crews declared a major incident upon arrival.

"At this stage everything points toward it being a tragic accident and our hearts absolutely go out to the families of those involved and everybody who was caught up in this incident last night," he said.

A PSNI officer at Greenvale Hotel in Cookstown, Co Tyrone

Asked about reports of fighting, Mr Ruddell told the BBC there were no injuries to suggest violent altercations.

"We did not see anything consistent with any fight or any violent injuries at all," he said.

He said one of those who died was declared dead at the scene, with the other two transported to hospital in a critical condition. As well as the girl who was in a stable condition in hospital on Monday morning, Dr Ruddell said one other person was treated at the scene for minor injuries.

"It was clearly a very distressing scene for all of those who were caught up in the midst of it," he added. "I would have to say a great thank you to our crews who managed this in a very professional capacity."

Police at the entrance of the Greenvale Hotel in Cookstown, Co Tyrone 

Police posted on Twitter shortly after the incident, urging parents to pick up their children from the venue on Drum Road.

Mother whose son was at the disco 'felt sick' at the news

Emma Heatherington, whose two sons, aged 17 and 18, had been at the event, said she "felt sick" when she saw the police appeal.

"My two boys were there so I rang them, shaking, and thankfully got them both," she said. "They were on their way home at that stage.

"They say there was a huge crowd waiting to get into the venue and then a lot of commotion up near the front of the queue, then they said the emergency services arrived and they were all asked to leave.

"They came home very, very shaken with rumours that some people had died."

The 42-year-old, of Donaghmore, Co Tyrone, added: "While it's not clear exactly what happened, it's the most tragic ending imaginable to what was supposed to be a celebration of St Patrick's Day."

Read more: How can three teenagers lose their lives waiting to go to a disco?

A 'dark cloud' hanging over Cookstown

People in Cookstown have expressed their shock over the tragedy.

Cassie Hagan (76), who lives near Greenvale, said: "I was so sorry to hear of the tragedy at Greenvale. 

"I feel so sorry for all the wee ones that were injured."

Mrs Hagan also said she felt sorry for those who run the hotel, describing how she has been to many events at the venue over the years. 

Colly Donnelly (47), owner of MacMahon butchers in the town, described the tragedy as a "dark cloud" over Cookstown. Picture by Mark Marlow 

Colly Donnelly (47), owner of MacMahon butchers in the town, described the tragedy as a "dark cloud" over Cookstown. 

"Nearly everybody coming in has mentioned it. Everybody is very shocked and stunned," he said.

"It's just a bit of a dark cloud hanging over the town today."

Mr Donnelly has a 19-year-old son who was not at the Greenvale that night but would have previously attended the venue.

He added: "You send your kids out to a disco for a night's entertainment. You don't expect something like that to happen. 

"I just feel for the families. It's heartbreaking for them."

 Megan McGirr (29), who works in McGlaughlin's coffee house and bakery in Cookstown said "everybody is just shocked" after three teenagers died in a 'crush' outside a hotel disco. Picture by Mark Marlow

Megan McGirr (29), who works in McGlaughlin's coffee house and bakery in the town, said: "I think everybody is just shocked.

"It's such a well-known area of the town. "It could happen to anyone."

Outside Asda supermarket near the Greenvale, shoppers also expressed their shock.

Jacqueline Hopper (57), from Cookstown, said: "I just came past it there now. It's awful - I can't believe it.

"We were actually in the Greenvale there yesterday at half seven to get something to eat but it was too busy.

"It was packed. There was a great atmosphere about it and there were children about playing, their wee faces painted up and all."

In the town, one business owner described the tragedy as "absolutely horrendous".

The woman, who did not wish to be named, said the owner of the hotel is an "absolute gentleman".

"It's a real family hotel. It does weddings and stuff," she said.

She added: "I'm gutted for the families involved. It's just devastating for the whole town, it really is."

Brendan Marshall, a local photographer, said the Greenvale Hotel was well known for teenage discos.

"(They have them) on special occasions such as St Patrick's Day or around Christmas time," he added.

Police at the entrance of the Greenvale Hotel in Cookstown, Co Tyrone 

Colin Neill, chief executive of Hospitality Ulster, said: "We are devastated to hear of the confirmed PSNI report of at least two deaths this evening at the Greenvale Hotel in Cookstown. This is shocking and tragic news and our thoughts and prayers are with the families of the deceased."

Thoughts and prayers with the families

Catholic Primate Eamon Martin tweeted his shock at the deaths. He urged people to pray for the victims' families.

DUP leader Arlene Foster tweeted that her "thoughts and prayers" were "with everyone impacted by this tonight".

And Sinn Fein deputy leader Michelle O'Neill called it a "parent's worst nightmare".

"My thoughts and prayers are with the families," she added.

Sinn Féin President Mary Lou McDonald said she "cannot fathom" the loss experienced by the teenagers' parents.

“What should have been a night of fun and celebration for young people has turned into a night of tragedy," she said.

“I wish to extend my deepest sympathies and condolences to all the families affected at this time of heartbreak, shock and loss.

“The PSNI have asked that any young people with footage of what happened do not post it on social media. I echo those calls and ask that any information or footage is given to police in order aid the investigation into this horrific tragedy.”

Police at the Greenvale Hotel in Cookstown, Co Tyrone, late on Sunday

Former DUP MP for South Antrim William McCrea, said: "We've got to see what lessons can be learned from this tragedy.

"I drove past this 10 minutes before it happened, not knowing that 10 minutes later an absolute tragedy would happen.

"The people that I've spoken to, they're very shocked. It's a close-knit community."

Ulster Unionist councillor Trevor Wilson said the deaths were a "devastating tragedy".

"It’s hard to take in what has happened," he said.

“I spent most of the night at the scene and can say that the emergency services did everything they could to help those who were in distress. Young people and their parents have been traumatised and will need a lot of support in the coming days. The Cookstown community is in a state of shock at what has happened but I know that they will rally round to provide whatever support they can."

Lauren Bullock (17) was named locally as one of the three victims

Secretary of State saddened by the tragedy

Secretary of State Karen Bradley said she was "deeply sorry" to hear of the teenagers' deaths.

"They were joining others in what should have been an evening for celebration," she said.

"My thoughts and prayers are with their families and friends at this extremely difficult time.

"I have spoken this morning to ACC Mark Hamilton, of the PSNI, who is leading the investigation alongside the Health and Safety Executive, and I asked to be kept updated.

"I want to thank the police, ambulance and fire services for all that they did last night in responding to this incident."

Minute's silence at MacRory and Schools' Cup matches

A minute's silence was held before the MacRory Cup final at the Athletic Grounds in Armagh and the Schools' Cup final at Kingspan Stadium in Belfast.

Books of condolence to be opened

Four separate books of condolence are to be opened across the Mid Ulster council area.

A book of condolence will be opened this evening after Mass in Saint Patrick’s Church, Dungannon while well-wishers can begin signing the books at Burnavon Theatre in Cookstown, Ranfurly House in Dungannon and the Bridewell centre in Magherafelt tomorrow.

If you or anyone you know is affected by this story you can contact Lifeline, the 24-hour crisis helpline on 0808 808 8000

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