A young garda was fighting for his life last night after the patrol car he was driving was involved in a collision with a car speeding towards the border at Londonderry while responding to a call for help.
Gary McLoughlin (24) and a garda colleague, Bernard McLoughlin (23), unrelated, were rushed to hospital following the high speed crash.
The family of Garda Gary McLoughlin, who was placed on a life support machine, was last night keeping a vigil at the young man's bedside.
Garda Bernard McLoughlin, a native of Gurteen, Co Sligo, was also injured in the crash. He is, however, expected to make a full recovery.
The collision happened when the gardai pulled their car off the road to avoid a car which colleagues had been pursuing at Lisfannon, near Buncrana, Co Donegal, at 1.30am on Sunday.
The two men, who are based at Buncrana Garda Station, had been called out to help fellow gardai involved in a high speed chase of a red Opel Astra heading towards the Derry border.
It is understood that officers in an unmarked garda car had recognised the driver of the Northern Ireland-registered Astra — who they believed was wanted on a warrant — at a filling station.
The patrol car, driven by Gda Gary McLoughlin, was travelling in the direction of the border when the Astra suddenly turned around and began driving back towards them.
According to a garda source, the patrol car pulled in “as far as it could” on the hard shoulder but the oncoming car “appeared to lose control “and drove into the driver's door, critically injuring Gda Gary McLoughlin”.
Temperatures were said to be sub-zero at the time and driving conditions were described as treacherous.
The injured gardai and the driver of the other car, who was the sole occupant, were taken by ambulance to Letterkenny General Hospital.
The driver of the Astra was also treated for his injuries and was under garda supervision at the hospital last night.
Both gardai had been stationed at Buncrana for a number of years.