Creeslough: Anniversary of deadly blast marked in Co Donegal village

Explosion at Donegal service station anniversary Credit: PA Wire/PA Images

The first anniversary of a blast that killed 10 people at a service station in an Irish village has taken place after a “painful year” for the Co Donegal community.

A ceremony was held at the site of the explosion in Creeslough, where people gathered to remember those they had lost, as a parish priest said the “journey of recovery” would continue for a long time.

Four men, three women and three young people, aged between five and 59, died in the blast on the afternoon of Friday October 7 last year.

Robert Garwe and his five-year-old daughter Shauna Flanagan-Garwe, Catherine O’Donnell and her 13-year-old son James Monaghan, fashion student Jessica Gallagher, Celtic fan Martin McGill, Sydney native James O’Flaherty, shop worker Martina Martin, carpenter Hugh ‘Hughie’ Kelly and 14-year-old Leona Harper were killed in the explosion.

A vigil mass at St Michael’s Church was also held on Saturday evening to remember those who died and those who were injured, and to thank the first responders to the scene.

Andrew Forster, the Church of Ireland bishop in Derry and Raphoe said that “great numbers” had gathered after a “painful year for us all”.

Fr John Joe Duffy speaks at a service in Creeslough Credit: Liam McBurney/PA

“It’s been a year of huge heartache and pain,” he said.

“But it’s also been a year when we’ve seen the best in people, how people have supported each other, cared for each other and loved each other through this pain and heartache.

“I think we’ve seen the best in the community here in Creeslough and yet, underneath it all, is this immense heartache, this immense sense of loss, this immense sense of tragedy and pain.”

Fr John Joe Duffy, the parish priest who acted as a spokesperson for the community at the time of the blast, said it was a day “of great sadness”.

“Today marks the first anniversary of the Creeslough tragedy, and it is a day of great sadness, of acute sadness, but it is a day of personal reflections, a day of fond memories of loved ones who were lost in the tragedy,” he said.

“The last year has been a difficult journey, as one can imagine. A journey of mourning, a journey of healing, a journey of learning to cope, particularly for those that this tragedy took 10 beautiful souls from, and for those who were also injured in body and all of us who were injured in mind on that day.

“The journey of recovery will continue for all of us for a long time to come.

“Unlike most journeys that we set out on in life, in this journey of Creeslough we know neither the length nor the duration of the road ahead, but we know that we will travel it together, each of us together, linked together.”

He thanked members of the emergency services and those who are praying for Creeslough, and asked those who had sent thousands of cards and letters of support to the community to continue to do so.

A year on, no update has been given publicly on what caused the explosion.

Seven people died in the explosion at Applegreen service station Credit: Brian Lawless/PA

Irish police previously said the incident was being treated as a tragic accident, with a gas leak considered as one possibility.

An Garda Siochana said ahead of the anniversary that its investigation was continuing “as expeditiously as possible”.

It said that over 1,350 lines of inquiry had been actioned and more than 900 statements had been taken.

Various Garda agencies are involved in the investigation and are being assisted by the Norwegian company Det Norske Veritas, which specialises in investigating and testing energy systems.

Gardai at the Applegreen service station in the village of Creeslough in Co Donegal Credit: Brian Lawless/PA

Ahead of the anniversary date, the families of those who died requested that the media respect their privacy.

Ireland’s premier Leo Varadkar said: “Our thoughts and prayers are with those who lost loved ones and the community in Creeslough today and every day. Seasimid libh.”

Ireland’s deputy premier Micheal Martin said he was “thinking of the people of Creeslough today, one year on since the terrible tragedy”.

“We remember the 10 lives lost, those injured, their families, and an entire community united in grief,” Mr Martin said on X, formerly known as Twitter.

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