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Floral tributes for teenage victims of St Patrick’s Day crush

Eyewitnesses have described chaotic scenes in Cookstown on Sunday evening and detectives confirmed people were trampled underfoot.

Hundreds of mourners have left written and floral tributes to three teenagers who died following a crush outside a St Patrick’s Day disco.

Up to 400 people were present as the tragedy near the Greenvale Hotel in Cookstown unfolded on Sunday night, and detectives said it was fortunate more were not killed.

Youngsters described chaotic scenes and police confirmed some were trampled underfoot as they waited to enter the popular Co Tyrone night spot.

On Tuesday, tearful well-wishers embraced tightly after laying flowers at a shrine to the dead beside a police cordon.

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Eyewitness Eboney Johnston, 16, said people just started to fall; as one person fell another went down (Liam McBurney/PA)

Eyewitness Eboney Johnston, 16, said people just started to fall; as one person fell another went down (Liam McBurney/PA)

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Eyewitness Eboney Johnston, 16, said people just started to fall; as one person fell another went down (Liam McBurney/PA)

Books of condolence across the county filled with page upon page of tribute.

Eyewitness Eboney Johnston, 16, recalled: “People just started to fall, but as one person fell another went down.

“As a person went to lift another person up, they were pushing and shoving and another person would fall, which caused a build up of everybody lying there.”

She said she was lucky to survive.

“We nearly feel guilty because it was not us, we nearly feel bad.”

Students Lauren Bullock, 17, Connor Currie, 16, and Morgan Barnard, 17, all from nearby Dungannon in Co Tyrone, died.

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Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) Detective Chief Superintendent Raymond Murray said it was fortunate more were not killed following every parent’s ‘worst nightmare’ (Liam McBurney/PA)

Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) Detective Chief Superintendent Raymond Murray said it was fortunate more were not killed following every parent’s ‘worst nightmare’ (Liam McBurney/PA)

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Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) Detective Chief Superintendent Raymond Murray said it was fortunate more were not killed following every parent’s ‘worst nightmare’ (Liam McBurney/PA)

They were likened to a ray of sunshine, ambitious and charismatic young people with compassion and courtesy.

Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) Detective Chief Superintendent Raymond Murray said: “This is an event that should have been a celebration and it has turned into every parent’s worst nightmare.”

He added: “Bad enough, a horrendous tragedy, but we could easily have been looking at more.”

Buses let youngsters off outside before the disaster happened.

This is an event that should have been a celebration and it has turned into every parent's worst nightmareRaymond Murray

Ms Johnston described the unfolding events.

She said: “We looked down and you could just see everybody lying there and then you could just see Connor himself being took out.

Floral tributes are laid outside the Greenvale Hotel where three teenagers died after a crush at a St Patrick's Day disco.

“It was just such a tragic situation.”

Youngsters will not face police action for being under age if they come forward, prosecutors pledged, in a bid to encourage people to tell their stories to officers.

Mr Murray praised those in the crowd who worked hard to get party-goers who had fallen down back on their feet when others were tumbling on top of them.

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Councillor Sean McPeake, chairman of Mid-Ulster District Council, signing a book of condolence in Cookstown (Liam McBurney/PA)

Councillor Sean McPeake, chairman of Mid-Ulster District Council, signing a book of condolence in Cookstown (Liam McBurney/PA)

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Councillor Sean McPeake, chairman of Mid-Ulster District Council, signing a book of condolence in Cookstown (Liam McBurney/PA)

One tribute in a book of condolence in Dungannon said: “Heartfelt sympathy for you all on the tragic loss of your child.”

It was signed “a mother”.

Lauren was a bright and bubbly cheerleader and schoolgirl who lit up the lives of her friends, a close friend said.

Alice Lambert, also 17, from Coalisland in Co Tyrone, was among the first to sign the memorial book in Cookstown.

She said: “She was such a nice person – she was like a ray of sunshine.

“She made you happy, you saw her on a night out and she would have made you happy.”

St Patrick’s Academy in Dungannon, where the two other victims attended school, said it was a time of “profound sadness”.

Morgan was an “ambitious and charismatic” young person with abundant potential.

Teachers said: “He lifted the mood everywhere he went, everyone benefited from Morgan’s energetic, positive zest for life. It was contagious.

“His smile was bright and when Morgan was around, fun and laughter always followed.”

Connor was a kind-hearted, loyal friend, always willing to help others, “courteous, mannerly and compassionate”.

The school said: “He had a great sense of team spirit and his warm, caring nature endeared him to all and earned him much deserved respect.”

Counselling services are being provided to those affected and prayer services have been held.

The British Psychological Society and the Royal College of Psychiatrists said it was completely normal for those present to experience distress – difficulty sleeping and bad dreams, thoughts and memories of what happened popping into your head, irritability, feeling sad and worried.

A statement from the professional bodies said: “People all react in different ways. It is helpful to be with family and friends and for those who were there to talk about happened if they want to.

“For some people quiet time can be important.”

Northern Ireland Secretary Karen Bradley signed the Cookstown book of condolence and met members of the emergency services.

PA