Miracle escape: 52 schoolchildren survive horror crash
FIFTY two children had a miraculous escape after their school bus swerved off a road in torrential rainfall and overturned into a field.
Incredibly, the most serious injury from today’s accident in north Cork was a fractured leg sustained by one teenage boy.
A total of 53 people were on board, including the driver, and four children were taken to Cork University Hospital.
Three were described as “walking wounded” with cuts, bruises and shock.
The fourth sustained a fractured leg but was otherwise described as in good spirits.
Gardai admitted it was incredible they weren’t dealing with more serious injuries given the severity of the accident on the Ballyhooly-Fermoy Road.
The bus was carrying 52 children to three secondary schools in Fermoy – Colasite an Chraoibhin, Loreto and St Colman’s.
They range in age from 13 to 17 years. Most are from the Ballyhooly and Grange areas.
It appears the bus driver lost control of the 53-seater coach as the vehicle was descending a steep hill.
Gardai suspect that large amounts of surface water may also have been a factor.
The vehicle swerved into the ditch but then appears to have travelled sideways into the sharp bend above a sunken field.
The coach smashed through the ditch and crashed into the overgrowth on its side.
Three youngsters were trapped when a small tree was driven through the glass cabin windows.
But incredibly the tree didn’t cause any serious injuries.
The bus driver was uninjured and was able to assist all bar three of the youngsters out of the wrecked coach.
Fermoy gardai and fire brigade units were at the scene within minutes.
The road was closed and a fleet of ambulances raced to the scene.
As word began to filter out about the accident, a number of distraught parents began to arrive at the roadway.
“Everyone was so very, very lucky. It could have been an awful lot worse,” a Fermoy garda told the Herald.
Fermoy fire brigade units were able to free the trapped children within minutes.
One mother said she is still in shock over the accident.
“I couldn’t believe it. I got a phone call to say there had been an accident but no-one knew what had happened or how bad it was,” Eileen Gowen said.
Eileen had two children on the coach, Caoimhe (14) and Jeff (13).
“I am just going to the CUH now. Caoimhe has bruises to her neck and back. But thank God she will be OK. But we are all very upset.”
Eileen’s son, Jeff, escaped injury on the coach but was deeply shocked by his ordeal.
Counselling and medical support was provided at all schools, in particular Colaiste an Chraoibhin where the bulk of the students attended.
Investigators stressed that children will not be interviewed for some time to allow them recover from the shock of the accident.