Donegal crash 'worst in Ireland'

Seven people died in one car. From top left: Eamonn McDaid, 22; Ciaran Sweeney, 19; Patrick McLaughlin, 21; Mark McLaughlin, 21; James McEleney, 23; Paul Doherty, 19, and Damien McLaughlin, 21. Seven people died in one car. From top left: Eamonn McDaid, 22; Ciaran Sweeney, 19; Patrick McLaughlin, 21; Mark McLaughlin, 21; James McEleney, 23; Paul Doherty, 19, and Damien McLaughlin, 21.

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The Irish Republic's transport minister has said he cannot believe the scale of life lost when two cars crashed in County Donegal on Sunday night.

Eight people died in the crash on the Drumfree to Clonmany road, about 15 miles from the Northern Ireland border.

It was the highest loss of life in a crash in the Irish Republic.

Seven of the dead were travelling in a black Volkswagen Passat, the driver of which survived. The eighth person to die was the driver of the second car.

It is believed the 66-year-old man had been returning home after playing bingo in Buncrana.

Noel Dempsey, TD, said ministers would review the level of police cover in the county

"There is a problem in that area. I'm sure Gardai deploy their forces as effectively as they can, but obviously we need to review so incidents like this don't occur," he said.

"There are certain periods when a very visible presence does act as a deterrent."

Cecil Doherty's nephew Paul Doherty will be buried on what would have been his 20th birthday.

He told BBC Radio Foyle the bereaved families were supporting each other.

"These people are suffering terrible tragedies," he said.

"We have parents going round all the different wake houses, passing on their condolences.

"There is a collective sadness here. It was a horrendous accident."

Lost control

The Irish prime minister, Brian Cowen, on a trip to New York, extended his sympathy to the families of those killed.

"I am deeply saddened to learn of these deaths and I want to extend my sincere sympathies to everyone who lost loved ones," he said.

The seven young men who died in the Passat were 21-year-old Mark McLaughlin, from Fahan; Paul Doherty and Ciaran Sweeney who were 19 and from Ballyliffin; Patrick McLaughlin, 21, from Burnfoot; 22-year-old Eamonn McDaid and 21-year-old Damien McLaughlin, both from Buncrana, and James McEleney, 23, from Clonmany.

The driver of the other car was Hugh Friel from Clonmany.

The surviving driver was taken to Letterkenny General Hospital where he is now said to be in a "seriously ill, but stable" condition.

Traffic police said the black Passat saloon was believed to have collided with a white Renault before the driver lost control and ploughed into a red Toyota 200 metres away.

On Monday, the bodies of the victims were released from the mortuary at Letterkenny General Hospital and returned to their families.

The funerals of Mark McLaughlin, Patrick McLaughlin and Hugh Friel will take place on Wednesday.

Paul Doherty, Ciaran Sweeney, Eamonn McDaid and Damien McLaughlin will be buried on Thursday, and James McEleney will be buried on Friday.

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