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Co Tyrone school bus crash: Narrow country road 'was scene of pandemonium'


The wreckage of the car and bus yesterday

The wreckage of the car and bus yesterday

The wreckage of the car and bus yesterday

Slumped in a field, surrounded by broken glass and twisted metal, it is a terrifying glimpse of how a journey to school almost ended in disaster.

The bus was making its early morning run between Castlederg and Omagh when it left the road, ploughed into a ditch and toppled over.

On board were dozens of young students, many of them left screaming in panic as the vehicle lost control, sending them hurtling from their seats.

The smashed out back window shows where the terrified occupants clambered to safety.

Yesterday's accident took place about eight miles west of Omagh, between the junctions of Segully Road and Drumrawn Road, near Drumquin.

The road is straight and flat, although narrow, along the stretch where the collision occurred. Local people say it is a busy road used by many school buses to take students into Omagh from the largely rural area.

The bus was transporting more than 50 young people to four schools –Sacred Heart College, Christian Brothers, Loreto Grammar and Drumragh Integrated College – travelling from the Castlederg area.

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Both the bus and the car involved, a cream-coloured Mini, careered off the road, dropping several feet into the field.

The bus landed on its left side, the driver's side facing up.

Meanwhile, the car landed upside down, its wheels facing the wrong way, sandwiched between the verge and the bus. Mercifully, the rear of the vehicle seemed to take most of the impact. The point where the bus left the road was clearly visible.

Tyre marks appear to show how the driver tried to brake before the bus careered off the tarmac at an angle. Wire fencing had been flattened where it ploughed down the small embankment, gouging out earth as it ripped through grass and clay before coming to rest.

Eyewitnesses told of "scenes of pandemonium" in the moments after the collision.

Anxious parents arrived on the scene after learning of the accident. Other drivers also stopped to help.

One said a student had managed to smash the back window, allowing the passengers to crawl away from the wreckage. Pieces of broken glass could be seen, along with shards of metal which had been ripped from the underside of the bus.

The driver was said to be badly shaken, but managed to call the emergency services for help.

Remarkably, none of those on board were seriously injured.

Some had cuts and bruises, a small number had suspected broken bones. Although many were taken to hospital, it was merely precautionary. Within a few hours the vast majority had been discharged.

By mid-morning investigators had arrived on scene to try to piece together what happened.

There was a sense of relief and disbelief that a more serious tragedy had not occurred.

Tom Buchanan, a DUP MLA who lives just outside the village, said it was fortunate that no one was badly hurt.

"A serious tragedy could have unfolded in Drumquin today, and we are all extremely thankful that no one was seriously injured," he said.


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