The day 'the devil came to Omagh'

Ulster bombing: A father and a mother out with their children describe the horrific consequences of the blast
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The Independent Online
TWO OF those injured in the Omagh bomb yesterday described their horrific experiences, including being blown across the street by the blast.

Francis Coyle and Sharon Haughey are being treated for shrapnel wounds at Tyrone County Hospital in the town.

Mr Coyle, 37, whose nine-year-old son Stephen is still in intensive care in Belfast, and whose wife, Linda, was also injured, said: "The devil came to Omagh that day."

The three were shopping at the time. The couple's 14-year-old daughter had stayed at home.

"There was a big flash and then a massive thud," Mr Coyle said. "I was thrown spread-eagled up into the air. I could feel things going past me and some hitting my arm. My eyes were open and when I came to hit the ground again, I could see buildings falling down. Everything was in slow motion."

Mr Coyle, who suffered shrapnel wounds to his right arm, saw his wife running towards him, screaming.

"She did not seem to see me. She was blind and had terror on her face."

The couple found Stephen face down on the road.

"I turned him round and saw part of his shoulder blade was missing," Mr Coyle said.

"Linda was screaming that he was dying, so I was trying to pacify her and see to Stephen."

He picked up Stephen and tried to carry him to safety, but had to put him down when he realised the extent of the injuries to his own arm and that his coat sleeve was full of blood.

The three were driven to hospital in a minibus and were among the first to arrive.

Mr Coyle said he stayed with Stephen for 10 hours as his son drifted in and out of consciousness before being transferred to Belfast suffering from shrapnel wounds to his stomach and spleen.

"I talked to Stephen all that time and told him to be strong and always to fight," he said.

Sharon Haughey, 25, suffered shrapnel wounds to her neck, legs, arms and back. She was on a shopping trip with her sons, Darryl, five, and Matthew, two. "I remember seeing a white light and then I was just blown onto the road," she said.

"I actually thought I was dead. My jeans had been blown off so I thought I had lost my leg.

"I remember hearing Darryl saying 'Mummy, come back'. Every time I got up, I was just blown back."

The three managed to get to the hospital on a bus.

"I remember arriving in casualty and my two sons being taken somewhere to calm down," she said. "Everyone was rushing over each other and trying to help each other. I was taken to a treatment room to have stitches."

She has since had one large lump of shrapnel removed from her neck and another smaller piece taken out of the back of her head.

"If the shrapnel had gone in through the front of my neck rather than at the back, I would not be here talking today," she said.

"I am going to have to be strong for my children's sake."