Two of the victims were a brother and sister from the Clonmel areaSchools in the area have put critical incident plans into actionPresident Michael D Higgins said ‘the grief that has been expressed by the community is nearly unbearable’Students and teachers have been visiting a section of the road where traffic has been cordoned off to lay flowers, place candles and pass on messages of condolence
Luke McSweeney (24) and his sister Grace McSweeney (18), from Clonmel, Nicole Murphy (18) from Ballypatrick, and Zoey Coffey (18), Kilsheelan died following the collision which occurred shortly after 7.30pm.
Taoiseach Leo Varakdar has described the deaths of the four young people as heart breaking, saying: ‘The whole nation mourns them.’
GardaÍ appeal for information at scene of tragic Tipperary road crash
Garda Superintendent Kieran Ruane said he vehicle struck a wall and tragically all four occupants lost their lives at the scene.
“An Garda Síochána supported by other emergency services including Clonmel Fire Brigade, HSE Paramedics, Tipperary University Hospital and Tipperary County Council initiated a major incident response,” Supt Ruane said.
“The scene at Hillview remains closed today and a technical and forensic examination is being carried out by An Garda Síochána Forensic Collision investigators.
“The remains of all four deceased were removed from the scene last night to Tipperary University Hospital. An Garda Síochána have notified the local Coroner and Post mortems will be carried out over the coming days at Waterford University Hospital.
“An incident room has been established at Clonmel Garda Station and an investigation has commenced under a Senior Investigating Officer. An Garda Síochána’s focus is the preparation of an investigation file for the Coroner,” Supt Ruane said.
Family Liaison Officers have been appointed to each of the families to provide support and the families will be kept updated as to the course of the investigation, gardaí said.
“I want to acknowledge and express my gratitude to my colleagues in An Garda Síochána and the other emergency services who attended the scene last night. The scene was very difficult, in very adverse weather conditions and the professionalism shown by all first responders and the care and respect shown to the four deceased was exemplary.
“Our local communities in particular Clonmel, Kilsheelan and Ballypatrick are shocked and deeply saddened by these events. I want to assure our local communities that An Garda Síochána is here over the coming days, weeks and months to support our communities as we all come to terms with this tragedy. I have been in contact with the principals of the local secondary schools that the girls attended and supports are being put in place for the friends of all four deceased today and over the next few days.
“We want to take the opportunity to appeal to any person with any information on this road traffic collision to contact the investigation team at Clonmel Garda Station,” Supt Ruane said.
Gardaí wish to speak with any person who may have any camera footage or images from the R678, Mountain Road and specifically the Hillview area between 7pm and 7.30pm to give that footage or images to the investigation team at Clonmel Garda Station.
The investigation team can be contacted at Clonmel Garda station on 052 617 7640, the Garda Confidential Line on 1800 666 111, or any Garda station.
Four young people dead after tragic crash on way to Leaving Cert party
It is understood that road and weather conditions will play a significant part in the garda investigation into the collision.
Locals reported heavy downpours and a significant amount of standing water on the roads around Clonmel around the time the collision happened.
Superintendent Ruane said the first responders to arrive found a very difficult scene.
“The first responders noted there was a significant downpour, a localised downpour, so that will play a part in the investigation,” Superintendent Ruane said.
It is believed the four victims were travelling to a Leaving Cert party when the accident occurred.
Independent.ie understands the three teenagers in the car were schoolmates who had just received their exam results.
President Michael D Higgins expressed his sympathies this afternoon saying: “The hearts of all parents and relatives, indeed the whole community, will have gone out to the families of Zoey Coffey, Nicole Murphy and Luke and Grace McSweeney, who lost their lives in a traffic accident in Co Tipperary last night.
“The grief that has been expressed by the community is nearly unbearable and I send my deepest sympathies to their families, their whole community, those in their year in school and the whole school, it’s pupils and management.”
Meanwhile, Mr Varadkar said the “thoughts of the whole country” were with the families, friends and the wider community of the victims of the tragedy.
He said Leaving Cert results night should “mark the beginning of a world of opportunities for young people”.
“It’s a milestone on the road from childhood to adulthood. For young lives, so full of possibility, to be cut short in this way is truly devastating and heart breaking. The whole nation mourns them.
“My sincere condolences to the families and friends of those who have died and the wider community in Clonmel and Tipperary. The thoughts of the whole country are with them, their school and their community.
“I am assured that the school authorities and HSE will work together to put in place the necessary supports for their classmates and community. We must come together in times such as this.
“Ar dheis Dé go raibh a n-anamacha.” Mr Varadkar said.
Education Minister Norma Foley confirmed that the Department of Education, through the National Educational Psychological Service (NEPS), will provide essential supports to staff and students over the coming period. She said school communities are “akin to tight-knit families”.
“This is heart-breaking news on what should have been a day of enormous celebration and joy for the Class of 2023.
“School communities in Ireland are akin to tight-knit families and I know this morning that staff, students, parents and guardians will be united in their grief and utter devastation at this tragic and sudden loss of life.
“The grief felt by those affected by the loss of four young lives is acute and we will do all that we can to support them at this sad and difficult time,” Minister Foley said.
NEPS is working on the ground with schools in Clonmel to aid with the delivery of critical incident plans and offer support to students and teachers.
The team, which previously supported school communities in the aftermath of last year’s Creeslough tragedy, is expected to work with the schools here for a number of weeks.
Students have been coming to the schools affected since about 11am, where they are being met by teachers and staff and given the time and space to support each other.
Local priest Fr Michael Toomey spent last night with families affected by the tragedy and visited the scene this morning.
He said the community is in shock.
“Sometimes no words seem adequate when a tragedy like what occurred in Clonmel happens. No words can give comfort at this time.”
Schools in the area have put critical incident plans into action and are liaising with each other about how to support students and the wider community.
“The families are devastated and in deep shock at the moment. We must keep them in our thoughts and our prayers, and indeed the community has been doing that,” Fr Toomey said.
He also paid tribute to gardaí and emergency crews who attended the scene last night and support the families of those killed in the collision.
“All the emergency services were fantastic last night. Obviously it is something they never want to see or deal with.
“As a community we are devastated and shell shocked. A number of events here this weekend or in nearby villages have all been cancelled now as a mark of respect.
“We are just looking out at the moment and my job now is to coordinate with the schools, their friends and immediate family to come have a safe space to gather and to grieve.
“It’s a sudden heartbreak. It’s something you can’t put into words.”
He urged any students and families in the area who are impacted by the tragedy and feel they need support to reach out to others, including the local schools.
Bishop Alphonsus Cullinan said today in a statement: “We are all shocked by this tragic news of four young lives lost in the car accident yesterday evening near Clonmel, Co Tipperary.
“I offer my sincere sympathy to all the families, friends, classmates and teachers of those who have died. Together, with the whole community of the people of Clonmel, the diocese and throughout the country, we will be there to stand beside and support the heart-broken and all those affected by this tragedy.”
Tánaiste Micheál Martin said the crash in Clonmel was “heartbreaking”.
“Deeply saddened by the tragic, heartbreaking loss of four young lives in Clonmel. Our thoughts and prayers are with their families, friends, classmates, the first responders, and the entire community today,” Mr Martin said.
The collision happened on the Mountain Road on the southern approach to the town.
Images of the immediate aftermath of the collision have been shared on social media.
“An Garda Síochána are appealing to the public not to share any of this material, if received, out of respect for the privacy of the deceased and their family and friends,” a spokesperson said.
Clonmel’s mayor, councillor Richie Molloy, said many teenagers in the town were planning to attend a party in Carlow last night but cancelled their plans after hearing of the tragedy.
Students and teachers have been visiting a section of the road where traffic has been cordoned off to lay flowers, place candles and pass on messages of condolence.
“There was a big party planned that a lot of the children from the various secondary schools were going to attend, including the young lads here, and that turned so quickly into tragedy.
“As a parent myself, I can only imagine the what they are going through.
“Clonmel is a town of about 20,000 but everyone knows each other.”
A book of condolence will be opened in the town on Monday at Tipperary County Council’s offices, he added.
The Mountain Road is notorious locally for having a very steep incline in parts.
It links the south Tipperary town with Waterford and the eastern section of the Knockmealdown Mountains.
A major emergency services response was dispatched to the collision with multiple ambulances, Tipperary Fire Brigade and Garda units at the scene.
The Coast Guard’s Waterford-based Rescue 117 helicopter was also on standby.
Gardaí closed the road involved to facilitate the work of the emergency services.
Motorists have been urged to avoid the area with local diversions being put in place.
A major emergency response was also triggered in South Tipperary General Hospital with standby medical support in both University Hospital Waterford (UHW) and Cork University Hospital (CUH).