Omagh Bombing: The Witnesses

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The Independent Online
The Bus Driver

Michael McNally, 40,

of Omagh

A BUS driver who took the injured and dying to a nearby hospital said he will never forget their screams of pain.

Michael McNally, 40, who lives in Omagh and knew many of those injured, drove into the centre of the carnage after hearing the explosion from the bus depot. He said the journey to the hospital, just a few minutes away, was the longest of his life.

He said: "I wasn't able to drive fast because people were screaming in pain. I was only able to go at about 30mph. As we went over the ramps at the hospital, I could hear the roars of pain."

Taxi drivers, van drivers and even driving instructors all joined him in trying to get as many people as possible to hospital. Among the 25 on the bus were the Spanish students and some of the injured children. He said: "It was like a scene from Hell. What we saw was impossible to imagine.

"There were bodies lying, people screaming, people digging at buildings with their bare hands trying to get people out from under the rubble. I just stopped the bus in the middle of the road. There were four ambulances in front of me, and we just tried to get people on board. People were wandering about in total shock, others were screaming and lying in the road.

"Some of the people were able to walk on the bus, others we carried on. We laid some on the seats. There was three or four children, some of them seemed quite badly off, bleeding from their heads, arms and legs. Their clothes were torn. I remember a wee small boy in the front seat who was rigid with fear. He just sat there staring but his mother was hysterical. She kept shouting over and over again, 'He'll bleed to death'."

The hospital casualty department was so full many had to be taken to the outpatients' ward, he said.

Mr McNally, who has a teenage son and daughter, said he was not a hero: "It's hard to believe what people can do in these circumstances. So many ordinary people helped out. It's amazing what people can manage to do at times like this."

The Draper's Shop

RD Kells,

Market Street, Omagh

STAFF AT a drapery shop, where nine bodies were found, recalled the carnage they witnessed.

Seven of the 20 shoppers in Kells are thought to have died. Two more were carried into the shop by the blast.

Staff were brought together yesterday by the owner, Roy Kells, to try to establish who had died in the shop and to express their condolences to the families.

Sharon Robinson, 26, broke down as she recalled the last moments of Mary Grimes, her 30-year-old daughter Avril - seven months pregnant with twins - and Avril's youngest daughter, 18-month-old Maura. She served the women and saw them at the door when the bomb went off. A woman she was serving at the time also died.

The manager, Stephen McKervey, spoke of witnessing scenes no one should ever see: "Those three generations, grandmother, daughter and baby all lying side by side, dead.

"There was a woman. The whole side of her face had been blown off. Literally half her face was gone. She was wandering about, she didn't even know. A priest came in and gave the last rites. He was in tears."

Jonathan Mehaffey was in the menswear department in the basement. The explosion blew the emergency door off its hinges. When he ran upstairs what he saw was "unbelievable. There was a man telling me his wife was lying there. He said, 'Please help her'.

"The way I saw it, it looked like she had gone. You could only see her face, the rest of her body you just couldn't recognise, it was covered. I shouted to get out because I was worried about the whole building coming down." He said: "I just keep asking myself, 'Why? Why did they do it?' "

Mr Kells, 62, a businessman, said the atrocity brought back memories of the poppy day massacre in Enniskillen nearly 11 years ago. His daughter, Catherine, then 17, laid a wreath at the war memorial just before that bomb went off but escaped injury. "She was suffering from the effects several years afterwards," he said.

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