Driver of school bus blown up by IRA tells of personal heartache 30 years on

Ernie Wilson at his home in Fermanagh with a picture of his son. Picture by Liam McBurney/RAZORPIX.

THE driver of a bus carrying school children, including Arlene Foster, which was targeted by IRA bombers has spoken about his personal heartache, 30 years after the tragedy.

Ernie Wilson (83) was driving the school bus in Lisnaskea, Co Fermanagh when the device exploded under the vehicle on June 28 1988. The attack was an attempt by the IRA to kill Mr Wilson, who was a part-time UDR soldier.

Mr Wilson saved the life of Mrs Foster's friend Gillian Latimer, who was sitting beside her on the bus, but he suffered serious injuries in the blast.

Three decades on, Mr Wilson, who was widowed last year after 60 years of marriage to his wife May, has described the personal pain that has haunted him ever since.

His son James, who would search the bus for suspect devices every day, was tormented by the thought that he had failed to detect the bomb. He took his own life shortly afterwards.

"James thought he had let me down. But he hadn't," he told the Belfast Telegraph.

"I still haven't got over his passing. I am not the same man that I used to be."

Mr Wilson said he still finds it hard to believe that all 17 children onboard the school bus that day survived, with most of them suffering minor injuries and shock.

The IRA bomb exploded under the vehicle on June 28 1988. Picture by BBC

He rushed to the aid of Mrs Foster's friend Gillian Latimer, who suffered extensive wounds to her arm.

"I think she died a couple of times and I wasn't going to move her until she started to breathe again," he said.

"Eventually she looked at me with these big wide eyes and there wasn't a cheep out of her."

Mr Wilson, who is originally from Ballinamallard, said he will not be marking the anniversary tomorrow.

"I hadn't even realised it was 30 years," he told the Belfast Telegraph.

"It certainly doesn't seem that long ago.

"In many ways it's just like yesterday. I still think about it all the time and will do until the day I close my eyes.

"I will also be careful about what I do in the week of the anniversary. I might still be a target."

Mr Wilson also said he has "an idea" about the identities of those responsible for the bombing.

"There's only one person who can forgive and that is God," he said.

"All those men will one day meet their maker and they will pay for what they've done.

"And I hope they do. If I saw the bombers in the street, I would walk on past them. I wouldn't have anything to do with them.

"But I would hold nothing against them. I hold no grudges because that gets you nowhere. I have got on with my life."

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