Omagh bomb surgeon: I arrived to ‘battlefield’ scene at hospital

The senior surgeon at Tyrone County Hospital on the day of the Omagh bomb has described the scenes he saw as “like a battlefield”.

Dominic Pinto said he walked into “bedlam” at the hospital that day, before performing operation after operation working to save as many lives as possible.

Dr Dominic Pinto at his home on the outskirts of Omagh.

Dr Dominic Pinto at his home on the outskirts of Omagh.

The 81-year-old, who is now retired, recalled he had been at a father-and-son golf day with his GP and his son when he heard the explosion.

“We were on the fourth hole, I had just driven off when I heard the boom,” he told the Press Association.

“I saw the cloud of dust from the middle of the town area.”

Mr Pinto then return to the golf club and drove to the hospital.

Dr Dominic Pinto (left) speaking at a news conference in Omagh, two days after a blast devastated the town. Pic: PA/PA Wire

Dr Dominic Pinto (left) speaking at a news conference in Omagh, two days after a blast devastated the town. Pic: PA/PA Wire

“When I opened the double doors going towards A&E, it was bedlam, like a battlefield, blood across the floor,” he said.

One of the first patients he saw had been blinded by a piece of shrapnel.

He said he immediately took control, clearing the room of those that did not need to be there and organising for a ward to be turned into a temporary morgue.

Then he put hospitals across Northern Ireland on alert to receive patients, including Altnagelvin in Londonderry, and the Royal Victoria Hospital and Ulster Hospital in Belfast.

As Mr Pinto’s surgeon colleagues were out of the country on holiday, he was faced with prioritising those that needed surgery when what he described as a miracle happened.

Surgeon colleagues from Dungannon and Sligo turned up to volunteer their services.

“A colleague of mine from Dungannon, Rodney Payton, had heard about it and decided ‘well I’ll just go and see if Dominic might need a hand’, and he popped over,” he said.

“He just turned up at the theatre and I was looking out and said ‘Is that you Rodney? Oh thank you’.

“That was like a miracle because my own colleagues were out of the country on holiday.”

Others came forward to donate blood to help the life-saving efforts.

Mr Pinto paid tribute to how everyone in the hospital, from the cleaners to nurses and doctors, came together that day.

He said he will never forget the transformation from the chaos in the afternoon to a well-ordered scene later that night when he emerged after hours of surgery.

“At about 10pm I came down from surgery and was surprised to see how quiet it was, and the place was spotlessly clean,” he said.

“It had been like a battlefield, and now it was spotlessly clean.

“That was the work of the team and is my abiding memory of that day.”