Fatal crashes: ‘Nothing can really prepare you’, says Limerick fire chief

Donal O'Regan


Donal O'Regan

The tragic scene in Dromkeen on the N24 where Christopher Scullane, aged 84, and his wife Mary Ellen, 70, tragically died  Picture: Adrian Butler

The tragic scene in Dromkeen on the N24 where Christopher Scullane, aged 84, and his wife Mary Ellen, 70, tragically died Picture: Adrian Butler

ONE OF the most common sentences reporters write is, “Emergency services are attending the scene of a crash”.

Gardai, fire service and ambulance personnel do it every day and night of the week. They don’t know whether they are responding to a minor tip or an accident with multiple fatalities and serious injuries.

One such tragic scene was last Wednesday, June 13, in Dromkeen when a car containing an elderly English couple was involved in a head-on-collision with a lorry. Nothing could be done to save Christopher Scullane, aged 84, and his wife Mary Ellen, 70.

Reporters move on to the next story, as do readers, but emergency services are left with the shocking images of what they have seen.

Twenty four hours after two units of Cappamore Fire Service attended the fatal crash they responded to another crash close to the fatalities in Dromkeen. Then on Thursday evening they were called to an accident up the road in Brooks Bridge. All within 48 hours. 

John Mulready, Cappamore fire station chief, said both accidents subsequent to the fatal crash were “very minor, thankfully”.

“After what happened on Wednesday you would be on your guard. They are very dedicated staff. We do offer them support, they have the support of Limerick City and County Council in relation to critical incident stress management.

“They are a very well-trained team, well used to many different type of situations. We have a lot of experienced members and we have a few who are in the service a few years - they are gaining their experience from other lads.

“Experience is a big thing in this  job. To have that experience to call on tragic situations like that is invaluable,” said Mr Mulready.

As well as the critical incident stress management available, they do debriefs and peer management support. But even with all the experience in the world, Mr Mulready said it can be very tough no matter who you are to deal with horrific accidents.

“Nothing can really prepare you for those kind of incidents. It takes experience and then the back-up system you have in place. The lads can avail of it, we watch them and mind them and let them avail of it if they need it,” said Mr Mulready.

He praised the co-operation between all the emergency services in Dromkeen last Wednesday.

“The gardai, ambulance paramedics and doctors were absolutely terrific. It is a great team that works together when we come into situations like that. We all pull together and that includes everybody on the site. They face the same things as us. It is really crucial the emergency services work together like that,” said Mr Mulready.

On behalf of himself and all in Cappamore Fire Service, he expressed his condolences to the families of Christopher and Mary Ellen Scullane

.“No accident is nice to deal with but those ones are tragic. We feel for the family as well and we would like to pass on our deepest sympathies to all those concerned.  When we are there we are thinking of the family the whole time. We always work with them in our minds and show dignity and sensitivity for everyone,” said  Mr Mulready.