A senior PSNI officer has urged young people who were at the Greenvale Hotel on Sunday night to speak to police about what they saw.
Detective Chief Superintendent Raymond Murray, speaking at a police press conference at Dungannon Police Station on Tuesday, gave an update on the investigation following the deaths of Lauren Bullock (17) from Donaghmore; Morgan Barnard, also 17, from Dungannon, and 16-year-old Connor Currie from Edendork.
The senior officer, who heads up the Serious Crime Branch, said it was hard to imagine how the parents of the three young people are feeling.
He said: "This was an event that should have been a celebration and it turned into any parents' worst nightmare."
DCS Murray added: “It is now just over 24 hours since we launched our investigation into the tragedy that unfolded at the Greenvale Hotel in Cookstown on Sunday night.
“I want to extend my heartfelt sympathies to the families of the three teenagers who so sadly lost their lives – 16-year-old Connor Currie from the Dungannon area, 17-year-old Lauren Bullock from the Donaghmore area and 17-year-old Morgan Barnard also from the Dungannon area. It is difficult to appreciate the level of grief these families must be feeling as Sunday turned into their worst nightmare.
“Over a day into our investigation I can tell you we have already traced the identities of over 160 witnesses and have already spoken to a number of young people who were in the queue at the Greenvale Hotel on Sunday night.
"Arrangements have been made to speak to many more over the coming days.
“I want to thank everyone who has spoken with us so far, however, there is still a significant number of people who were there that night, in the queue, and I need them to come forward to speak to police so we can understand what happened.
"Initial CCTV viewing would lead us to estimate that perhaps as many as 400 people were in the queue or car park at that time.
“A number of parents have indicated they are concerned that their children, who may have been underage, were trying to enter a licensed premises. I want to reassure you, the focus of our investigation is not the age of people who were at the event – it is about trying to find answers for the families of the three teenagers who tragically died – we need to know what you saw so the heartbroken families of Connor, Lauren and Morgan know what happened to their children.
“I would urge parents to talk with your children, support them and encourage them to come forward and tell their story to police so we can get an accurate picture of events that night.
“Talk to your children, reassure them – we know they may be scared – but again I can assure you we are only interested in establishing what happened. Their account of events on Sunday night could be crucial to establishing how Connor, Lauren and Morgan died."
Mr Murray said more could have died in the incident.
"We are fortunate that we are looking at three deaths, we could absolutely have been looking at more," he said.
He praised those in the crowd who helped get people back on their feet.
Mr Murray said some people were concerned about "slightly underage" children coming forward to help with the investigation.
He said Northern Ireland's Director of Public Prosecutions Stephen Herron had agreed that it would not be an issue in this investigation.
"The absolute focus in this investigation is about finding out how three teenagers came to die on what should have been a celebration," Mr Murray added.
Detectives can be contacted at the dedicated incident room at Dungannon police station by calling 101, extension 53055.
Witnesses can visit the dedicated room at the Burnavon Arts Centre in Cookstown – open from 10am on Tuesday.
Anyone with any information, images or footage can also pass it to police via the following link: https://mipp.police.uk/operation/PSNI19O08-PO1