Northern Ireland

Creeslough families to mark first anniversary with service at scene of disaster

Ten people died when a suspected gas explosion caused the shopping and apartment complex to collapse.
Ten people died when a suspected gas explosion caused the shopping and apartment complex to collapse.

Gardaí say the investigation into the Creeslough disaster is still ongoing one week before the first anniversary of the tragedy. 

Families of the 10 people killed in the explosion tragedy will come together on Saturday for what will be a hugely emotional service marking the first anniversary.

Hoarding along the site of the former Applegreen complex is being modified to facilitate anniversary services and the placing of mementos at the scene. It was also confirmed to The Irish News that Donegal county council has no plans to demolish buildings at the site as they remain in private ownership.

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An anniversary service will be held at the scene of the explosion on Saturday afternoon (3pm), marking the time when a suspected gas explosion caused the shopping and apartment complex to collapse

Later in the day, a Mass (7.30pm) will be held although the public are asked to view it online so that families and local people can attend in person. Families of the deceased have asked for privacy to mark the anniversary of their loved ones' deaths. 

The explosion occurred at 3.17pm on Friday October 7 last year, causing one of the most devastating losses of life and injury ever in Co Donegal. The 10 people who died included three children while a further eight were injured.

Footage from the scene flashed around Ireland in the hours after the disaster as rescue workers clawed stones from the collapsed buildings in desperate bids to save lives. Search and rescue teams from both sides of the border worked through the night to recover the bodies of the victims. The last body, that of teenager, Leona Harper was brought out the following day.

Within hours, CCTV footage appeared to confirm the initial belief that the explosion was caused by an accidental gas leak. Footage showed windows on the first floor blowing out, seconds before the complex collapsed.

Gardaí and other agencies launched one of the most detailed investigations witnessed in Ireland. All rubble from the site was removed to a secret location for scrutiny while experts were also drafted in to help. A year on, the investigation has still not been completed.

A Garda spokesman said: “As this is an ongoing investigation, An Garda Síochána has no comment at this time.”

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In the days after the explosion, Irish political and church leaders expressed sympathies on behalf of a shocked nation. President Michael D Higgins said it was a “terrible blow” to the community while then Taoiseach Micheál Martin described it as “the darkest of days for Donegal and the entire country”.

Pope Francis sent his condolences. He prayed that God would console and heal the “injured, the displaced and the families coping with pain of loss”. Sympathies were also sent by King Charles and then British Prime Minister Liz Truss.  

Creeslough parish priest Fr John Joe Duffy, who was catapulted into an international media maelstrom, said his village had been struck by a “tsunami of grief”.

A spokeswoman for Donegal county council confirmed this week that work was being carried out at the scene.

She said: “This follows engagement with the property owners, the families directly impacted by the tragedy and, in particular, those families who have lost loved ones, the wider community in Creeslough and An Garda Síochána.

“This work will include the erection of a 4.8m high hoarding along the site frontage.”

The new hoarding will include a 1m set-back to facilitate those wishing to leave flowers and other mementos.

“As the remaining buildings within the site are in private ownership, the council has no plans to demolish these buildings at this time,” the spokeswoman said.