Crazed cemetery joyrider leaves man seriously hurt
People jumped behind gravestones and ran for their lives after a car was driven at speed through a packed graveyard, injuring one man seriously.
Parish priest Fr Mark O'Hagan was officiating at the annual blessing of the graves at St Patrick's Cemetery, Dowdallshill, Dundalk, Co Louth, when the chaos unfolded at around 3.40pm yesterday.
"I was on the podium and it was near the end of the service when I heard screaming and shouting," he said.
"I looked to my left and could see people running, screaming and shouting."
Fr O'Hagan rang gardai telling them "there is a madman in the graveyard flying through at speed".
He said the car flew past him and into the car park where it struck a number of cars before doing a U-turn and trying to head back down the way it had come.
Fr O'Hagan said he put his hand out as if to try and stop it and the car then tried to mount the kerb towards him and he ran out of the way.
He said he shouted at people to get off the footpath and he had it announced through the public address system that a man had been struck and that people should get off the footpath.
"It was a worst nightmare, it was just frightful," he added.
Gardai said one man was seriously injured and several more people suffered superficial injuries.
The injured man is understood to have struck his head when he fell to the ground.
He was taken by ambulance to Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital in Drogheda.
Fr O'Hagan said he was sending "our best wishes to the injured man and his family, our thoughts are with them".
One woman, who did not want to give her name, said: "No one knew what was happening. I heard the sound of the car speeding and heard a bang and smoke rising. I heard what sounded like a car reversing and going back again.
"I jumped in between two headstones to be out of the way," she added.
She believed the car used had been earlier driven into the graveyard and parked.
Sometime later, a man was seen getting into it. The car then reversed and struck a man.
The woman said there were thousands of people at the service and a number of cars drive into the cemetery every year as well as park in the official car park.
Another woman who was at the blessing said: "He drove towards where we were, I jumped out of the way. People were jumping out of the way all over the place.
"It was driven at speed past where the priests were and it went out then and hit cars in the car park. Someone said there was a girl playing in the footpath a minute before it all happened. I am shaking.
"People were crying and shouting with the shock of it all," she added.
Gardai arrested a man in his late 20s, believed to be the driver of the car, at the scene.
He was brought to Dundalk Garda Station where he was being detained last night under Section 4 of the Criminal Justice Act 1984.
Investigating gardai appealed for witnesses and anyone with video footage of the incident to contact them on 042 9388400, or any Garda station.