Limerick family of school bus driver involved in horror crash speak for first time

Donal O'Regan

Reporter:

Donal O'Regan

The scene of the horrific crash in Caherline Picture: Press 22

The scene of the horrific crash in Caherline Picture: Press 22

THE FAMILY of the bus driver involved in the horror Limerick crash that resulted in 36 people being hospitalised last week have spoken for the first time.

While asking that the media respect their privacy, they did dispel the rumours that the middle-aged man suffered a stroke or heart attack before the incident.

The accident involving the school bus – bringing pupils to John the Baptist Community School in Hospital - and a car happened on the main road between Caherconlish and Hospital at Connolly’s Cross. The bus, carrying 46 children, ended up on its side in the ditch. 

A member of the bus driver’s family told the Limerick Leader this week: “We will be making no comment [on what happened]. He is under medical attention. It is not for the family or anybody to make a comment on that.

“He is very seriously injured. He is still hospitalised – he is in the high dependency unit.  He is speaking but he is very ill. Everybody is hoping he will recover fully,” said the family member.

They did wish to publicly praise the ambulance crews, fire service, gardai and all the emergency services who responded.

“They were excellent as were all the staff in the school. We were very concerned about all the pupils and the lady in the car. We are delighted they are all very well.

“We would like to thank the people of Cappamore and thank our friends and colleagues. It has been outstanding. I can’t speak enough of the support we have got – it is incredible to say the least,” said the family member.

Eight ambulances attended the scene along with three patient transfer vehicles and one air ambulance to transfer the injured to hospital. Five units of the fire service from the city, Cappamore and Kilmallock responded as did gardai and ESB workers, who switched out the line after a pole was hit. There was a massive sense of relief at the scene when everybody realised that there were no fatalities on the day. 

One Cappamore man, who knows the bus driver, said he is “very careful behind the wheel”.

”If the bus had been going faster it would have been much worse. He is a very careful driver,” they said.

Meanwhile, three local ladies have joined together to organise a thanksgiving Mass for all the students, teachers and emergency services.

Sally English, Caherconlish, said she was having a chat with her friend Eileen Hourigan and they were both feeling down and sad.

“We were speaking about the children and how lucky they were to get out of the crash. We were thinking about the driver and the lady in the car. I said wouldn’t it be nice to organise something for everybody,” said Sally, who contacted well known local charity fundraiser Nancy Lane. They came up with the idea of organising a thanksgiving Mass which will take place in the Millennium Centre in Caherconlish on Saturday, February 24 at 1pm. Sally said she was speaking to some of the children, who are all from the Caherconlish area. 

“They were so lucky to get out. We were all saying prayers for them. We know a lot of the parents and kids. I spoke to some of them and they said, ‘Sally, we’re grand’.  They said the older ones helped the younger ones to get off the bus. They helped each other,” said Sally.

Nancy went to John the Baptist Community School and met with principal, Noreen Rafferty and vice principal, Ita Browne.

“They were overwhelmed with the idea. The children are doing the prayers of the faithful and the readings. The thanksgiving Mass is for everybody involved – pupils, ambulances, fire brigade, gardai, teachers, bus driver and his family, and everybody who helped out,” said Nancy. The Mass will be said by local priests, Fr Roy Donovan and Fr Pat Currivan.

“There could have been fatalities and we would have been rallying around after a tragedy. We thought we should do something to say thank you for a miracle. All the community is behind us. Margaret Ryan of the Millennium Centre is giving us the hall and refreshments for free. Everybody involved is more than welcome on February 24. The children are amazing and so brave and we wanted to do something for them,” said Nancy.

Ms Rafferty, principal, described all the students on the bus as “heroes”.