Donegal locals speak of frantic efforts to rescue people trapped after explosion

People worked for hours to clear debris and help people hurt in the Creeslough blast.

10 October 2022

Two men from Co Donegal have spoken of their frantic efforts to rescue people caught up in the explosion that took the lives of 10 locals.

Colin Kilpatrick was just metres from the petrol station in Creeslough when the blast ripped through the building on Friday.

The impact of the explosion knocked him over.

Workmen board up the scene of an explosion at Applegreen service station in the village of Creeslough (Liam McBurney/PA)

“I was making delivery at the creamery when the explosion happened and I fell over but I presumed the lorry or the trailer had a problem, that there was a blow-out in the tyre,” he told the PA news agency.

“I got out of the lorry and saw the shop and then I knew what happened. We ran to the shop and there was a young girl there and she was squealing that her sisters or friends were still inside.

“We got her across the road then went back and and there was a man stuck under the door. I shouted for the jack of a car and we got the door off him.

“We couldn’t lift it without the jack; you think you are strong but we couldn’t move it. We stayed with him until the ambulance came just to comfort him.”

Explosion at Donegal service station
Mourners hold candles during a moment of silence in Castlefinn, Co Donegal (Liam McBurney/PA)

Mr Kilpatrick and fellow Donegal man Bernard McGinley, among many others, worked for hours lifting heavy debris to free people trapped underneath.

One of the men Mr Kilpatrick helped remove from the scene, James O’Flaherty, tragically passed away.

“We just kept working to get people out – between everyone it was a big help,” Mr Kilpatrick added.

“We took lorries up and worked right through until everyone was out.

“We got the girl out and two men and spent hours moving stuff to clear the exit.”

He said the scene was difficult to describe.

“I would say when we got the young girl out first the reality hit and you are thinking, this is a petrol station too so you’re waiting for a bang at the same time. So it’s just unreal, just as they say, like a movie,” he added.

“We are sore and taking pain killers because we worked and pulled at heavy stuff we are not used to. I was lifting heavy blocks and not even thinking about it.

“Everyone was taking turns to get stuff moved out of the way.”

Mr Kilpatrick and Mr McGinlay met Archbishop Eamon Martin on Monday, who visited the scene in Creeslough.

Mr McGinlay, who appeared within minutes of the explosion, said he arrived at a scene of “total and utter carnage”.

Explosion at Donegal service station
A member of An Garda Siochana walks in front of a house where the windows were blown out following the explosion at the Applegreen service station in the village of Creeslough (Liam McBurney/PA)

“There were people walking about dazed, people injured, people frantically looking for friends and partners. It was unimaginable. There were cars blown across the forecourt, people trapped,” he added.

“There were fatalities almost instantly.

“On the forecourt it was straightforward. Most people were trapped and it was a matter of taking debris off them and we put them in cars and helped them up. They had broken limbs.

“Inside it was a different scenario.”

Mr McGinlay’s daughter works in the shop during the summer holidays and at weekends, but was not working at the time of the explosion.

Explosion at Donegal service station
Officers at the scene of an explosion at Applegreen service station in the village of Creeslough in Co Donegal (Brian Lawless/PA)

“It hit me that my daughter could have been there,” he added.

“I knew everyone in the shop. It hits hard.

“The first man Colin tried to rescue died in his arms. My memory is better because it is rescuing a little girl and she is OK. That’s what I will hang on to.

Mr McGinlay said he does not know how the small community will recover from the devastation.

“This little village will need help for a long time and the severity is so far-reaching,” he added.

“We don’t have anywhere to get a carton of milk, or a loaf of bread. It’s just devastating.

“People have been ringing me from everywhere asking what can they do. Everyone wants to help so a structure needs to be put in place as to how we help everyone and help this community recover.”

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