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Crash horror reverberating through shell-shocked Inishowen peninsula

When an excited Damien McLaughlin returned from Mayo last weekend with the new van he had just purchased, his equally excited friends called around to give his new set of wheels the once over.

The youths carried out the good-humoured inspection in the back yard of the 21-year-old's home at Umricam, Buncrana, in warm sunshine last Sunday morning.

Damien's family looked on from inside as the group checked out the new van and shared their friend's joy.

It will be an image forever forged in the minds of his parents Noeline and Robert, said cousin and local councillor Rena Donaghey yesterday.

Hours later, all of the young men were dead.

The Buncrana-based councillor revealed how Noeline had given her son a relic of St Martin before she drove him down to pick up his new van.

“He was over the moon with it (the van) and all his friends came up to have a look at it. That is how close they were,” she said.

Later that fateful Sunday evening the pals gathered again in the High Stool bar in Clonmany to watch the World Cup final.

Tragically, Damien telephoned his girlfriend of two years, Coleen Doherty, to cancel the lift he had arranged earlier.

Instead, he and six others piled into the doomed car, being driven by Shaun Kelly, the designated driver for the evening.

Pensioner Hughie Friel (66) was returning home at around the same time to Dunaff Head on the northern coast of the Inishowen peninsula.

The cars collided between two left-hand bends 6km from Clonmany, killing Mr Friel and seven of the eight occupants of the Passat.

Last night friends of the devastated Ms Doherty, of Cloncool Park in Buncrana, revealed how she had lost her only brother six years ago — in another horror road smash which killed three young men.

“She is just numb. She is going around in a daze. She is blaming herself for not collecting Damien but what could she do?” said the friend.

The horror of the tragedy keeps reverberating through the shellshocked peninsula.

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