IRA Ballygawley bus bomb survivor: Help me find woman who saved my life

Mike Drew (right) wants to meet the woman who helped him after the bomb. His friend Steve Rawlins (left) pulled him out of the wreckage
Mike Drew (right) wants to meet the woman who helped him after the bomb. His friend Steve Rawlins (left) pulled him out of the wreckage
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A soldier who survived the Ballygawley bus bomb has appealed on the anniversary of the atrocity to find the woman who saved him as he lay dying at the roadside.

Mike Drew from Bristol, 49, was a private when a massive IRA bomb destroyed his bus on the Ballgawley to Omagh Road in Co Tyrone on August 20, 1988. Eight soldiers from the Light Infantry Regiment were killed and 19 injured.

The aftermath of the Ballygawley Bus Bomb in 1988, where eight soldiers were killed by an IRA bomb and 19 injured.

The aftermath of the Ballygawley Bus Bomb in 1988, where eight soldiers were killed by an IRA bomb and 19 injured.

Mike attended a roadside ceremony to mark the 30th anniversary of the attack last year. “It was quite an overwhelming experience,” he said.

The 18-year-old was asleep on the bus, which was bringing soldiers back from England after leave, when the bomb exploded. He told his story for the first time on the anniversary of the bomb.

He told the News Letter: “The first thing I was aware of I felt an electric shock sensation. I thought I fell out of the bus but I found out only last year that a friend of mine had actually pulled me out.

“It was pitch black. I regained consciousness in the bushes and I panicked. I could hear awful screams and girls’ voices shouting and wailing. You could smell explosives.

“I could just hear this lady helping me. She gave me a jacket to put on – it was so cold.

“I wanted to lie down and go to sleep but I believe one lady in particular would not leave me alone. She kept shaking me and stopping me from going to sleep.

“I can still hear her voice now but can’t see her face. She got me a cigarette but I couldn’t take a puff because my face was so badly damaged. I couldn’t even hold it in my hands.”

He believes she would have been “youngish, possibly in her 20s”.

Mike suffered severe injuries to his hands, required up to 500 stitches to his head neck and face, and still suffers from post traumatic stress.

He understands he was one of the first to be evacuated to hospital. The woman helped him into a camper van to get him urgent medical help.

“After I came around a few days later from the life support machine, they told me that I had lost 5.5 pints of blood and that I probably wouldn’t have lasted much longer if she had not got me on that camper van.

“I would love to meet her, although it may have been one or two ladies who helped me. All these years I have never stopped wanting to meet her to thank her in person.

“I have three kids now and four grandchildren. Obviously that probably wouldn’t have happened if it wasn’t for her.”

Pipe bands which stopped to help were the Omagh Protestant Boys and Star of the Valley Band, Londonderry.

Kenny Donaldson, director of services with the South East Fermanagh Foundation, has worked closely with the Ballygawley bus bomb survivors.

In his experience there is “incredible power” associated with the meeting of those who were thrown together by terrorist attacks, he said.

He asked anyone that could assist Mike meet the woman who helped him to make contact on tel: 028 677 23884.

In 2015 survivor James Leatherbarrow was reunited with Grace Curry who had similarly helped him.