Five schoolchildren killed in bus crash on Irish country road

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Five teenage girls were killed in the Irish Republic when a school bus was involved in a road accident near Dublin.

Five teenage girls were killed in the Irish Republic when a school bus was involved in a road accident near Dublin.

Six pupils were critically injured when the bus, which was carrying 50 children from a number of different secondary schools, overturned in the incident in Co Meath, which involved two other vehicles.

Five of the pupils on the bus were killed while dozens of others were injured, some of them trapped for a time on the vehicle, which ended in a ditch with its side and back windows smashed.

Some students, who were described as "walking wounded", were treated at a nearby house. The girls who died were reportedly aged between 13 and 16 and were pupils at Loretto Convent School in Navan. The Irish President, Mary McAleese, expressed her shock at "the tragic loss of young life in this afternoon's dreadful accident".

The accident happened at Casey's Cross at Kentstown, near the town of Navan. The road is described as fairly narrow, with roadworks in place close to the scene of the accident. A local guesthouse owner, Patsy McDonnell, said: "It's not a particularly dangerous stretch of road, but there were roadworks there today."

The volume of traffic in the area has increased dramatically in recent years as the local population has expanded rapidly. Navan and the surrounding areas have seen a house-building boom as the district has become a commuting base for people working in Dublin.

The local health authority said nine ambulances were dispatched to the scene, along with fire engines. Some of the injured were taken to Our Lady of Lourdes hospital in Drogheda while others were ferried to Dublin hospitals.

Three Irish Air Corps helicopters went to the scene with medical supplies. Later a crane and other heavy lifting equipment arrived at the scene.

Caroline McDonnell, a teacher in Kentstown, said the bus had been returning pupils to the area from schools in Navan. "The bus was full of girls and boys from different schools returning home."

The Irish Transport Minister, Ivor Callely, said he had learnt of the accident with "deep shock". Mr Callely had been in contact with the emergency services who were at the scene.

Damien English, a local MP, said it was a horrific tragedy for the local community, adding: "It's unbelievable. Everybody is in shock. It's a terrible waste of young life."