A mum was “hysterical from grief” as she prayed with a priest after surviving a horror car plunge that killed her husband and two kids, aged six and 14.
Geraldine Mullan, 45, managed to escape as the family’s Mitsubishi car skidded off a road, went down an embankment and ploughed into Lough Foyle at Three Trees, Quigley’s Point in County Donegal, Ireland.
The tragedy occurred after Ireland was battered by 90mph winds and heavy rain from Storm Ellen, which damaged buildings, uprooted trees and caused flooding, and a local councillor said extreme weather conditions may have been a factor.
After her 49-year-old husband John, six-year-old daughter Amelia and 14-year-old son Thomas were killed, the heartbroken woman prayed with a priest and went round thanking emergency services members.
Have you been affected by the incident? Email [email protected]
Fr John Farren, parish priest of Iskaheen, described it as a “traumatic” scene.
He told the BBC: “It’s a terribly tragic incident, it’s just beyond words.”
He prayed with the mum at the crash scene, where she was “hysterical from grief”.
He added: “She was completely shocked… totally distressed, and I was with her when we prayed with the three deceased.”
Mrs Mullan climbed out of the car and was standing on the overturned wreckage when she was rescued.
Her children also managed to get out of the car, but they later died.
Before Mrs Mullan was taken to hospital, she went round thanking rescuers for their efforts.
Fr Farren added: “At the end, before she was moved to hospital, she was going round thanking everybody for what they had done, which was an amazing thing in itself that she was thinking of other people.”
The family are from the Moville area. They were returning home from a day out in Derry.
A garda spokesperson said the driver lost control and the vehicle plunged down an embankment into around 10.20pm on Thursday.
The dad was driving the car and the children were in the back seat.
The mum was in the front passenger seat.
Local councillor Terry Crossan, who lives in the area, told the Derry Journal that a combination of heavy rain, high winds and a high tide may have been a factor in the tragedy.
He said: “It’s a very dark day for Inishowen. Our thoughts and prayers in the first instance have to go to the wife and mother of the children and to their extended family who now have to go though this grief and bury their husband and children. It’s horrendous.”
The Sinn Fein councillor added: “There was very, very inclement weather at that particular time. There was very heavy rain, fairly high winds, compounded by the fact that there was an extremely high tide.”
He was told that waves were breaking over the sea wall onto the road.
Garda Superintendent Eugene McGovern said conditions were poor and the night was wet and windy, the Irish Mirror reported.
He said the stretch of road had recently been resurfaced and officers will probe whether it may have contributed to the tragedy.
He added: “We knew fairly early on that we were dealing with a family situation here and it was very difficult.
“We still don’t know what caused Mr Mullan to veer off the road but we will carry out a full investigation into all the circumstances.
“It was a wet and windy night and the stretch of road where the crash happened had recently been resurfaced so that will form part of our investigation.”
The deaths of the dad and two children are a blow to the area, Superintendent McGovern said.
He added: “It is just difficult to find words for the families involved. Mr and Mrs Mullan’s families have been informed of the situation and that is why we are now releasing their names.
“This is an awful tragedy for the immediate families but also for the wider community as the family are well known and respected in the locality.”
A garda spokesperson said: “A car was travelling from Muff towards Quigley’s Point when the driver lost control and the vehicle skidded across the road and down the embankment and plunged into the water.
“The male driver, 49 years, and two rear seat passengers, both children, one male, 14 years, and a female, six years, were fatally injured.
“The female, 45 years, front seat passenger managed to exit the car and sought assistance.”
Mrs Mullan was taken to hospital with non-life-threatening injuries.
Gardai have asked anyone travelling on the road from Muff towards Quigley’s Point between 10pm and 10.30pm to contact investigators.
They want to hear from anyone who spotted a black Mitsubishi ASX with registration number 11 DL 1566.