The scene of devastation that was left in the grounds of Cregmore NS, near Claregalway yesterday, was an indication of just how close this was to being a terrible tragedy involving a massive loss of life. According to reports, children were pulled out of the way of the oncoming truck as it ploughed from the road and through the school boundary, ending up destroying several cars. It was a scenario of potentially horrific proportions that happened as schoolchildren were being collected by their parents.
With this in mind, the fact that no child incurred any serious injury by a runaway truck ploughing into the schoolyard is nothing short of miraculous.
Dozens of parents will be hugging their chidlren ever tighter this morning when they look back at just how close that crash was to being the worst ever to befall a school in this region. So how did it happen? While gardai have yet to fully investigate what caused the truck to lose control and leave the road, there is no escaping the fact that the school is located near a busy junction on a road that is often used as a rat-run by commuters anxious to avoid the congestion in Claregalway.
The roads in that area facilitate the rat-run from the N63 Galway-Roscommon road right through to the N18 Claregalway to Oranmore road, and the temptation to use it is too much for hundreds and hundreds of drivers each day.
It is a road that is painfully inadequate for any heavy vehicles, and in many stretches nearby cars have to slow down to allow another to pass, such is its lack of breadth. And bang, smack in the middle of this is the junction where this progressive school is located.
The board of management of that school have done marvellous work to facilitate the safe transit of children to and from the area, and it seems that such plans fortunately worked on this occasion, but the rapid rise in traffic on those country roads, especially when it comes to faciliating larger vehicles, must be examined by the Gardai and by Galway County Council.
One hour before the accident, the school was being visited by local priest Fr Denis Walsh. Principal Joe Kennelly, a man of tremendous drive and humility, gathered all the children in the one area of the school for the visit. This was a rare thing as the school does not yet have an assembly hall. If this gathering had not taken place, the yard would have been more filled at the time of the crash and the consequences would have been horrific.
The Cregmore school has tasted tragedy in the past. It lost young teacher Mary Curley to illness; and it lost students Niall Greaney and Jamie Kyne to tragic death in recent years. Ironically, the trial of the man charged with Jamie’s death was ongoing yesterday as the crash happened. Maybe, just maybe Mary, Niall and Jamie — all good people — were looking down on the infants and spared the school another day of tragedy.