Belfast Telegraph

Donemana numb with grief as family torn by tragedy that claimed lives of Michael and Aaron McDonald

By Donna Deeney

Donemana is a quiet, rural community where the residents know each other by their first names.

Yesterday the small village was plunged into desperate grief following the death of two young cousins who lived there.

Local minister the Rev Judi McGaffin said the McDonald families were struggling to cope with the tragedy.

"News of their tragic and untimely deaths has left a deep sense of shock in the village and beyond," she said. "The loss is felt most acutely by the men's families, but it will be shared by their many young friends.

"The bereaved, the injured and all those affected by this tragedy are in our prayers at this most difficult time."

Michael McDonald (21) and his cousin Aaron McDonald (19) were back-seat passengers in the Volkswagen car being driven by Dylan McDonald (18) after it came off the Victoria Road near Newbuildings on the outskirts of Londonderry.

A fourth passenger, Jodie Pomeroy (16), who was the front-seat passenger, escaped with her life and is now recovering at home in the Waterside.

The road is the main arterial route connecting Strabane and Derry. While it is straight in parts, it is littered with hidden dips and the two solid white lines which run up large sections of it indicate how perilous it can be.

The sight of the black Volkswagen Golf the four young people were travelling in being lifted in pieces onto the back of a lorry yesterday bore testament to that danger.

While the exact cause of the crash is still being investigated, what is known is that close to 3.30am the car these four young people were in left the road, ploughed into a grassy field on their right-hand side and impacted to such an extent that the vehicle split in two.

The sight of the car, crumpled and broken, served as a clear indicator of the fragility of life and how none of the four young passengers on board would have had any idea how their night out would conclude.

Traffic was being diverted past the scene until the emergency services and police investigators had completed their grim task, but in the village of Newbuildings just metres away, the sadness felt was evident.

One woman shook her head at the thought of the lives lost and said: "I have a son who just passed his test two years ago and my heart is in my mouth every time he goes out. You preach and preach to them about being careful but you wonder how much of it goes in.

"My heart goes out to the families of the two young fellas who died and to the other two families as well. Look at the sun shining today, but it will be a black day for all of them."

This communal sense of shock and grief reverberated right across the north west and was summed up by the local MP.

Pat Doherty said: "The community throughout the north west stands united in its sense of shock and deep sadness as this devastating news has filtered through and all who have been impacted in such a heartrending way as a result of this accident are within our thoughts and prayers at this time."

The lack of a dual carriageway or motorway along this stretch of road has long been the cause of heated debate.

West Tyrone MLA Joe Byrne said that the accident demonstrated the need for urgent intervention from the Government to address safety concerns.

He said: "This tragedy emphasises the need for significant changes to the roads infrastructure in this area.

"We need to urgently upgrade the A5 to improve safety and avert future accidents which send shockwaves through our community.

"It is imperative now that we see urgent intervention from government to address the concerns about the roads network in the west. Nothing else will do."

Belfast Telegraph

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