Police in the Republic are investigating if a driver had a seizure before his car killed two little sisters on an afternoon stroll with their father.
Two-year-old Kate and her three-month-old baby sister Grace, the only children of John Gilmore and his wife Michelle, died when a Toyota Avensis spun out of control on the N17 Dublin to Tuam road, about a mile from the Galway town at 1.45pm.
Mr Gilmore — a construction engineer who works in Londonderry — was pushing the buggy along the hard shoulder of the straight stretch of road in the sunshine when the accident happened, while his wife was busy at the family home in the nearby Meadows estate on the Milltown Road, Tuam.
But it is understood that gardai were responding to a report that the Toyota had already clipped another vehicle at a nearby junction when they came upon the Gilmores. Officers are considering the possibility that the driver suffered a seizure, which resulted in him hitting another car before veering off the road and into the family.
Two ambulances rushed to the scene and transported Mr Gilmore, the children and the driver to University Hospital Galway about 30km away.
Frantic efforts were made to save Kate and Grace but they were pronounced dead shortly after arrival. The injuries suffered by Mr Gilmore and the male driver, who was the sole occupant of the car, are not believed to be life-threatening.
A section of the N17 was closed off near the turn-off for Dunmore while a forensics teams carried out an examination of the accident scene.
Gardai in Tuam have appealed for any witnesses to the accident to come forward to help them piece together what happened.
Mr Gilmore works in the private sector in construction while his wife Michelle had an administrative role with the Irish Health and Safety Executive but is believed to be on maternity leave at present.
A statement on behalf of the family asked for “time and privacy to grieve the loss of their two beautiful daughters”.
The two sisters were laid out side by side in the hospital and their parents spent the afternoon with them, the girls' grand-uncle Mickey Gilmore said.
Mickey and his wife Carmel had spent the last week with the children in Lanzarote at a family wedding. The Gilmore family only returned home last Thursday.
Mark Gilmore, a brother of the girls' father, got married in Tiaz last Monday.
“The day we flew out we got delayed at Knock for hours. Kate kept us entertained at the airport all day while we were waiting for the flight,” Mr Gilmore said.
Mickey added: “John went walking out with the two girls. He is a devoted father. He works in Derry during the week and spends all his time at weekends with the girls,” Mickey said.
“It is absolutely desperate — they were their only children,” Carmel said.