Just feet from death ... drunk teens passed out close to river
Three young teenagers who passed out during an underage St Patrick's Day drinking orgy were just a few feet away from a river and possible death, according to police.
The teenagers – two young girls and a boy all aged around 16 – were found unconscious by police officers who were called to Strabane golf course.
Between 50 and 60 youths from the town and parts of neighbouring Donegal had congregated at the golf course for a drinking session organised through social media.
Most of the teenagers fled when police officers arrived at the scene, which was strewn with empty cans and spirits bottles.
One young girl was lying just feet away from the edge of the River Mourne unconscious and face down in a puddle of mud.
She and two of her companions, all of them heavily intoxicated, were taken to Altnagelvin hospital while paramedics administered first aid to a number of others at the golf course.
None of the young people were eligible to buy alcohol legitimately from an off-licence and police slammed those adults who made the purchases for them.
Chief Inspector Andy Lemon said: "My officers, based on information from last year, carried out a sweep of the golf course in Ballycolman towards the river and came upon around 50 to 60 youths holding a party.
"We actually recovered two young people unconscious and one young girl in such a state she could not even speak. These young people were all taken to hospital and I have since spoken to one of them, a girl of 15 from Lifford.
"She told me they used a 'random' which in their terms was a passerby asked to go in and buy drink for them.
"They had been drinking cider, shots and vodka and potentially had the police not gone down and located these people, there could have been a fatality, it was freezing cold and pouring with rain.
"Had the young girl who was found near the river wakened up and gone for a walk 10ft in the wrong direction she was into the river. Potentially it could have been fatal."
A police helicopter and a search group with police dogs were also tasked to help the search for others in the darkness in case there were more young people lying in danger elsewhere.
Councillor Patsy Kelly said that whoever bought the alcohol for the young people should undergo some soul searching.
He said: "It is absolutely ridiculous that an adult would act so irresponsibly and buy substantial quantities of drink for underage young people.
"Whoever did this could very well have had the death of one of these teenagers on their conscience today.
"Three of them were found very, very close to the edge of the river unconscious and if they had remained there undiscovered they could have fallen into the river in a semi-conscious state to certain death.
"It is no exaggeration to say we are so fortunate that we are not dealing with a real tragedy and it is only good fortune that some family has been spared having to make funeral arrangements."
Chief Inspector Andy Lemon: "We deployed the police helicopter using the search lights and thermal imaging.
"We deployed police dogs and the community search and rescue, mainly because of concerns that there could have been another young person lying in a ditch and we wouldn't have known about them until – God forbid – we found them dead."