Driver fatally injured as?school bus and van collide

One man died and three other men were injured in the latest horrific road crash to occur in County Roscommon. The accident happened yesterday morning (Wednesday) on a narrow road about three-quarters of a mile outside the village of Hillstreet when a Bus Eireann school bus carrying 27 second-level pupils was in collision with a van carrying three men which was travelling in the opposite direction.   The driver of the bus, a well-known local man who was aged 56, and who drove school buses locally for over 30 years, was killled instantly in the crash. The three men who were travelling in the van sustained injuries and were removed to hospitals in Roscommon (2) and Sligo where they were said to be suffering from injuries that were not life-threatening.   Two of the children on the bus were take to Sligo General Hospital suffering from minor injuries and a number of other children received counselling in Carrick-on-Shannon and Sligo.   The accident happened at 8.25 am as the bus was bringing children to Carrick-on-Shannon Community College. There was rain in the area at the time and the road was wet. Gardai and Fire Service personnel from Roscommon, Elphin and Carrick-on-Shannon attended the scene almost immediately.   It is understood that the driver of the bus was killed instantly. There are  unconfirmed reports that part of a load that was being carried by the van may have become dislodged on impact, adding to the trauma of the accident.    The Principal at Carrick-on-Shannon Community School, Mr. Joe Flynn, said that there was shock and disbelief as news of the accident spread.    ‘I heard about the crash at about 8.40 am and I went to the scene immediately to see for myself. It was a terrible tragedy and I want to offer my sympathy to the family of the man who lost his life in this accident’ he said.    ‘Thankfully none of the children were seriously injured but it is a terrible ordeal for them. We have organised counselling for  those who want it and our staff have rallied around brilliantly. There is a lot of shock around the school today but we are trying to get on with things as normal, but it’s difficult’ he concluded.   Local people were shocked that such a terrible accident should happen in their area. One local man said: ‘It’s hard to believe that such a major accident could take place in such a small rural area as this but I suppose when you look at the TV and listen to the radio there are serious accidents happening all over the country – day and night – in towns and in the country. God help that poor man and his family.’    Erica Rosengrave, a spokesperson for Bus Eireann, said that the dead man was an exceptionally good and safe driver. ‘This man drove school buses for the past 30 years and had an unblemished record. In fact he was nominated many times for safe driving awards. In fact we understand that his evasive action in this case could have saved lives and injury. We are shocked and saddened at his death and we send our sincere sympathies to his family. We will be investigating the cause of the crash’ she said.   Meanwhile Fine Gael Roscommon TD Frank Feighan has expressed his shock at news of yesterday’s crash. ‘This incident has shocked the entire community, and I would like to extend my sincerest sympathies to the driver’s family. Our thoughts and prayers are with the driver’s family and the children. We can at least take some comfort that none of the children appear to have been seriously injured.    ‘The late driver was a very popular individual in the community, which is shocked by the incident. Roscommon has had its share of tragedies of late.’   Fianna Fail Deputy Michael Finneran has also extended his condolences to the family of the deceased Bus Eireann driver. Deputy Finneran said: ‘I would like to express my sincere and heart-felt condolences to the family of the driver of the Bus Eireann bus which was involved in a collision in Hillstreet, Co. Roscommon. I understand the driver, had dedicated 30 years of his life to Bus Eireann and it is tragic that his career should have ended in this way." Deputy Finneran concluded by saying that it is a relief that no children were seriously injured in the accident.   The accident is the third serious road accident involving buses in the past ten days in Co. Roscommon.