Northern Ireland

Creeslough anniversary: The tragedy victims

The victims of the Creeslough disaster were, top, from left: Shauna Flanagan Garwe, Robert Garwe, Leona Harper, Hugh Kelly, Jessica Gallagher. Bottom , from left: Martin McGill, James O'Flaherty, Martina Martin, Catherine O'Donnell, James Monaghan.
The victims of the Creeslough disaster were, top, from left: Shauna Flanagan Garwe, Robert Garwe, Leona Harper, Hugh Kelly, Jessica Gallagher. Bottom , from left: Martin McGill, James O'Flaherty, Martina Martin, Catherine O'Donnell, James Monaghan. The victims of the Creeslough disaster were, top, from left: Shauna Flanagan Garwe, Robert Garwe, Leona Harper, Hugh Kelly, Jessica Gallagher. Bottom , from left: Martin McGill, James O'Flaherty, Martina Martin, Catherine O'Donnell, James Monaghan.

The ten victims of the Creeslough tragedy were:

Martin McGill (49) – A native of Glasgow, he moved to Creeslough in 2001 to look after his elderly parents. He became part of the fabric of Creeslough and was popular with his neighbours. Following his father Joseph’s death eight months before the explosion, he continued to work as full time carer to his mother, Mary. Villagers knew him for his quick wit and absolute devotion to his beloved Celtic FC.

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James O’Flaherty (48) – Australian, James worked as a director an American manufacturing business. He settled in nearby Dunfanaghy with his wife, Tracey and, later, their son, Hammish. At his funeral, twelve-year-old Hammish broke the heart of the nation when he told mourners his father was a “great man”.

Hammish said: “I would also like to say something I’ve learnt in the past week or so. We should be grateful. For your families, cherish them, be grateful for they won’t be there forever. Use the time you have wisely. Also, be grateful for your life because that too will not last forever.”

Martina Martin (49) – Martina moved to Creeslough with her family in 2018 and was working behind the counter at the Applegreen store when she died. At her funeral, Fr John Joe Duffy said she had an abundance of love and lived her life to the full.

He told mourners: “Martina was a beautiful person. Her beauty inside radiated in that kind of cheeky, mischievous smile which followed out to you when you met her.”

James Monaghan (13) – One of three children who perished, James had just been collected from the school bus by his mum, Catherine O’Donnell (who also died) when he was killed. They were queuing for the post office in the Applegreen complex when the explosion occurred.

James’s great passion was sport and in particular wrestling. At his funeral mourners were told, the teenager even once challenged Kilmacrennan parish priest, Fr Paddy Dunne to a wrestling match.

Catherine O’Donnell (39) – Catherine doted on her son, James (Monaghan). Originally from Creeslough, she was living at nearby Kilmacrennan when she and James lost their lives. Inseperable in life from James, she was standing with her son when the tragedy occurred.

Robert Garwe (50) – Originally from Wedza in Zimbabwe, Robert worked in construction. He had become well-known in Creeslough where local people recalled him travelling around the village on his scooter. On the day of the tragedy. Robert had taken his daughter, Shauna into the Applegreen store to buy a birthday cake for her mum, his partner, Áine.

Local people remembered Robert’s friendliness. They said he was always seen with his beautiful daughter. Robert and Shauna were driven to the store on the day of the explosion by their neighbour, Hugh Kelly, who also died.

Shauna Flanagan-Garwe (5) – Shauna was the youngest victim. She had just started at Scoil Mhuire National School in Creeslough a few weeks before the tragedy. Her uncle, Killian Flanagan revealed that when her body was found, she was still wrapped in her dad, Robert’s embrace.

Friends of the family remembered Shauna always on her pink scooter with the family’s pet dog, Kylo in tow. They said she was a “chatty” little girl and always ready with a giggle. She was buried beside her dad.

Hugh Kelly (59) – The oldest victim, Hugh grew up in nearby Doe. He worked in farming and construction. At his funeral, Fr John Joe Duffy said he was always a happy man and always had a ready smile on his face. People said he could turn his hand to any job and was a skilled craftsman.

Jessica Gallagher (24) – Jessica was from Creeslough and had just returned to her home village from Paris where she had been studying fashion design. Her boyfriend, Conor, suffered serious injuries in the explosion.

Always happy, friends said Jessica radiated kindness and warmth. She had been due to start a new job in Belfast just weeks after the explosion. Jessica was believed to be in an apartment at the back of the complex when the building collapsed.

Leona Harper (14) – Leona’s body was the last to be retrieved from the wreckage of the Applegreen complex. By the time she was found, news crews from all over Ireland had descended on Creeslough on the Saturday morning. When an ambulance was seen manoeuvring into position, a hush fell on the scene and the utter heartbreak of what was happening was almost tangible.

Leona was planning to have a sleepover with a friend on the Friday night and went to the shop to get ice cream. She was standing at the fridge, picking a flavour when she was killed. Her friend was injured but survived.

A little lady who loved life, she played rugby with Letterkenny. Her dad, Hugh, said she was a “gem”; he said she was “very, very special”. She loved the outdoors and fishing. Leona’s classmates from Mulroy College and her team mates from Letterkenny rugby club formed an emotional guard of honour as she was brought to St Mary’s church, Ramelton for funeral Mass.