Kiea McCann (17) and Dlava Mohammed (16) were dressed up and on their way to their debs ball from Largy College in the Co Monaghan border town of Clones, when tragedy struck and the car in which they were travelling left the road and crashed.
Kiea and Dlava died at the scene.
“There was great excitement here in the house before they went out. We had food and champagne and balloons, and it was going to be a great night,” Kiea’s father Frankie told the Irish Independent from the family home in Clones.
Describing their daughter, Kiea’s mother, Teresa said she was a stunning girl who was bubbly, intelligent and good natured.
“She was great to everybody,” she said, adding that Kiea and Dlava had been best friends for years. Dlava’s family are originally from Syria, and the McCanns moved to Clones at around the same time seven or eight years ago and the two girls were great pals at school.
‘Utter shock and disbelief’ – Two teenage girls dead and two critical after crash on way to debs ball in Monaghan
“It will be hard on all the young people. Hard on all the friends,” said Teresa.
Kiea was the fifth of 10 children, and Frankie McCann said they had been to her first motorbike rally only last Saturday in Kildare. “I have a few bikes and Kiea loves them, so we went to the rally and she really enjoyed it,” he said.
“She was going to college in September to study childcare,” he added.
Meanwhile the family of Dlava Mohammed, who also live in the town, were being comforted by friends as they tried to come to term with their grief.
People in Monaghan and surrounding counties were in shock as news filtered through, and the graduation event planned for students at a local secondary school was cancelled in the wake of the tragedy.
The students were attending the debs ball for the class of 2023 at Largy College in Clones and the school remained open late on Monday night to welcome students returning from the cancelled celebration.
Another female teenager aged 18 is also in a critical condition in Cavan General Hospital. The driver of the car, a man in his 60s, is also in a critical condition and being treated in hospital in Belfast.
An 18-year-old male is also being treated for less serious injuries in Cavan Hospital, gardaí said.
It is understood those in the vehicle were making their way to a debs ball in Monaghan town for students at Largy College. The event was cancelled as news of the tragedy emerged.
In a statement on Tuesday, Largy College and the Cavan Monaghan Education Training Board said students, staff and all in the school community are in “deep shock following the tragic accident”.
Sharon Magennis, Principal of Largy College, said: “It is with profound sadness and grief that we have learned about the devastating accident that resulted in the untimely and tragic loss of two cherished members of our school community. We extend our deepest sympathies to the families and friends who have tragically lost loved ones. The other individuals involved in the accident also remain in our thoughts and prayers at this time.
“We extend our heartfelt gratitude to the emergency services and gardaí who responded swiftly to the incident.
“Our priority now is the wellbeing and welfare of the students, parents and staff at this difficult time. The Largy College Critical Incident Team has met to co-ordinate a response and to enact the Critical Incident Plan.
“We are grateful to the public for their deeply felt expression of support and ask that we be given the time and space to concentrate on supporting those in the school community who are most in need.”
Local priest Fr Peter Corrigan said he got a call from a student yesterday evening to say there had been a crash.
“I went out to the scene. It was very tragic. The car was in the ditch and the injured had been taken away, but the two young girls that died were still there,” he said.
“The fire brigade and ambulances and gardaí were there. It wasn’t on a bend or anything. I think it was a straight enough stretch of road, but there had been intermittent heavy showers earlier. I don’t know what happened.”
“There is a sadness in the town. People are heartbroken. A time of celebration and happiness was turned to tragedy.”.
Minister Heather Humphreys said it was an “unimaginable” tragedy and that the whole community has been numbed.
Ms Humpreys visited the school and met staff this morning.
“This is a very very sad day for Clones. There’s a cloud over the town. People just feel so upset and just numbed by the tragedy,” she said afterwards.
“It’s not easy. Up in the Diamond in Clones last night the children all got ready. The girls especially were in their dresses and they were all ready for a great night out and unfortunately it ended in tragedy.
“It’s every parent’s worst nightmare because nobody expects to get that phone call. One of the parents was on the football field last night and she got the call to go.”.
Heather Humphreys speaks outside Largy College in Clones
The Social Protection Minister said earlier: “This is just terrible. It’s an unimaginable tragedy. And I have to say my thoughts and prayers are with the families of the two young girls who have lost their lives and with those who are very seriously injured in hospital, I can just say the entire community…has just been knocked by this.
“You know, this was a debs night for Largy College. It should have been a night of celebration, and a kind of coming of age for these young people and it just turned into their families’ worst possible nightmare.
“This is just awful for so many families, you know, young people to see their friends cut off at such a young young age. It’s just It’s heartbreaking. It really is. And it’s very, very difficult for them to take.
“They’re sitting at home now with their parents and… none of us never know, never know what’s around the corner? I know a lot of parents across the country will hear this news today. And I know that they’re holding their children extra tight because it really every parent’s worst nightmare.”.
This morning, Largy College on the outskirts of Clones remained closed, but it is understood the principal is to hold a critical meeting at the premises this morning and may issue a statement this afternoon.
Two black ribbons could be seen on the gates of the college.
Within hours of the crash, the Youth Centre in Clones town was opened so that support could be offered to young people in the town as they tried to come to terms with the tragedy. Youth workers went out onto the streets to help anyone who needed it.
Caolan Faux, regional director of Youthwork Ireland for Cavan/Monaghan, said: “This is one of our oldest centres. It’s also one of our busiest centres across the region and the staff team are deeply, deeply ingrained in the community as well as staff in other projects who come from the community here. So we had staff here from projects across Cavan and Monaghan last night who all feel a real connection with Clones.
“I was out on the street with the staff last night and they knew each of the young people by name, by first name, and they knew their backgrounds. They knew what supports they were going home into or what supports home might struggle to provide. And it’s that kind of personal connection and that link and that relationship that makes the work we do quite special, and obviously that’s the access for young people to make their way in and we had a number of young people in the centre here last night as well, just as a safe place to be, and to talk, and to be with each other and obviously supported by the staff here.
Asked what supports the centre will provide in the near future, Mr Faux said the centre is more than just a physical space.
“We use that term ‘space’ very advisedly. It’s a physical space, but it’s also a space that young people feel a real ownership of. We’ll work with all the inter-agency groups, and we’ll take guidance from some, and we’ll certainly play our part in terms of steering the inter-agency response in terms of the supports that can be offered to the community, and the building will be available and I would imagine over the next couple of days and weeks we’ll have more than Youthwork Ireland based in this building as we roll out the support,” he said.
“I had a fantastic message from a colleague this morning just offering support so we will work with all of our partners to ensure that Clones gets the best of everything. And the supports aren’t going anywhere is the piece that I would really stress.
We’re here for the long haul and we will be here on this project. We’ll be here to support the community and to play its part and continue to play its part,” he said, adding that the centre will work closely with the schools which are currently closed for the summer holidays.
“We work closely with the schools we were speaking to a number of the teachers last night, and obviously they’re waiting for guidance from their own response teams within the school.
“But we do have an important role to play. The school will step up and play its part I’ve no doubt, and we will have our part to play and we will work with the school and we’ll work with everyone else to make sure that we all do that effectively just to make sure that it’s accomplished in the interest of the young people in the community.”
Gardaí said in a statement on Monday night: “An Garda Síochána remain at the scene of a fatal road traffic collision that occurred at approximately 6.45pm this evening, Monday 31st July 2023, on the N54 in Legnakelly (Clones to Smithborough Road), Co Monaghan.
“Two female teenagers (aged 16 and 17 years), who were passengers of the car, were fatally injured during the collision. Their bodies have been removed from the scene to Monaghan General Hospital. Post-mortem examinations will take place tomorrow, Tuesday 1st August 2023.
“A female teenager (aged 18 years) is in a critical condition and currently receiving treatment in Cavan General Hospital.
“A male teenager (aged 18 years) is currently receiving treatment in Cavan General Hospital for non-life threatening injuries.
“The male driver of the car (aged 60) is in a critical condition and is currently receiving treatment in Royal Victoria Hospital, Belfast.”
The N54 remained closed while Garda forensic collision investigators carried out a technical examination of the scene. The road remained closed overnight, with commuters advised to avoid the area.
Sinn Féin TD for Cavan-Monaghan Matt Carthy said his thoughts were with the victims of the tragedy and their families.
“Horrendous, heart-wrenching news coming from Clones this evening,” he said.
“God help the families that are affected, it’s just a completely gut-wrenching situation.
“Unfortunately for these families, tonight will mark the beginning of a lifetime of devastation for them.”
Deputy Nianh Smyth said the tragedy was a “shocking and tragic loss of life”.
“Shocking and tragic loss of life this evening in Clones. My thoughts and prayers are with the families, friends and school community at Largy College tonight,” Ms Smyth said.
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Parents are numb and shocked so is the local community, Sinn Féin Councillor, Pat Treanor said.
“It’s an absolute horror that’s unfolding – heartbreak from those who live in the area,” he said.
Mr Treanor, who lives a mile from where the accident happened, was leaving work when he saw the gathering of the students of Largy College.
“Earlier on when I was leaving work, I would have witnessed all the young people gathered for their Debs, all excited, getting photos, meeting their friends.”
“Then about an hour later, there were helicopters in the air, there were sirens from ambulances and the sad messages started to come through.
“There is a fear…people are just waiting to hear who exactly is involved in this tragedy.
“We can only imagine how traumatised the other students and pupils, teachers and all the parents are this morning.”
“Everybody’s parents were really numb and shocked, and waiting on the most tragic news, so is the local community.”
“We can only hope that God gives those families strength to cope with what they are now facing, which we can only imagine how difficult it is for them.”
Fine Gael councillor and cathaoirleach of Monaghan County Council David Maxwell said: “It’s an awful tragedy to hit Monaghan. Two people have lost their lives and three people are hospitalised with two critical,” he said.
“As Cathaoirleach of Monaghan County Council, my thoughts go out to the families of the people who have passed away.”
Gardaí in Monaghan are appealing to anyone who may have witnessed the collision to contact them.
“Any road users who may have camera footage (including dash-cam) and were travelling on the N54 between Clones and Smithborough this evening, Monday 31st July 2023, between 6.15pm and 7.00pm are asked to make this footage available to Gardaí,” they said.
“Anyone with any information is asked to contact Monaghan Garda Station on 047 77200, the Garda Confidential Line on 1800 666 111 or any Garda station.”