'It was chaos... I didn't think we'd get out alive', says bus crash girl hero
A teenager who risked her own safety to help rescue younger pupils after their school bus crashed into a field says the dramatic incident has inspired her to one day become a paramedic.
Aislinn Merrick and Luke O'Dea, from Caherconlish, were travelling to John the Baptist Community School, in Hospital, on Wednesday when their bus - with 46 students on board - collided with a car.
After it came to a halt on its side in a field, Leaving Certificate student Aislinn and fifth-year student Luke stayed on board to make sure their fellow students got out first.
Aislinn (18) said it was "a miracle" everyone escaped with their lives.
Speaking at her home yesterday, she said she heard a "bang" and then passengers started screaming.
She said younger students were frozen with fear that the bus might catch fire.
"No one had any time to react. It just happened so quick," said Aislinn.
"Everyone was disorientated and then the bus went straight into the ditch and toppled over.
"It was just chaos. It was bad. There were people screaming, but we managed to get everyone out.
"There were a few students that were so scared they couldn't move. I helped get them out through the shattered window."
Aislinn - the eldest passenger on board - was the last student to leave and was "lucky" to escape with only a few scratches,.
"The bus driver was still there, but we couldn't move him," she said.
"Luke was checking on the driver and said that an ambulance had been called."
Aislinn, who said she didn't believe she was a hero, added: "I wasn't expecting to get out of it alive to be honest."
Despite her ordeal, she returned to school by bus yesterday to continue her mock exams for the Leaving Certificate.
"It was a bit scary - I was holding on to the seats a bit tighter," she added.
Asked what career she wanted to pursue, Aislinn said: "I think this has inspired me to become a paramedic. They were amazing yesterday."
School principal Noreen Rafferty said all the students on the bus were "heroes".
Pupils are being offered psychological counselling.