Teenagers’ trauma after Cookstown nightmare

Children from Lurgan, Craigavon and Portadown were among those crushed during a St Patrick’s Night disco in Cookstown.

Tuesday, 19th March 2019, 3:10 pm
Updated Tuesday, 19th March 2019, 3:51 pm

A bus load of 47 teenagers left Lurgan on Sunday, and while all returned home on the bus, many suffered huge trauma after the horrific incident which saw three young people lose their lives.

Connor Currie (16), from Dungannon, Lauren Bullock (17), from Donaghmore, and Morgan Barnard (17) from Dungannon died in the crush at around 9.30pm on Sunday at the Greenvale Hotel.

A number of parents have been speaking of how their children are in shock after the dreadful events.

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Connor Currie, one of three teenagers killed in the St Patricks Day tragedy at the Greenvale Hotel in Dungannon.
PACEMAKER BELFAST Connor Currie, one of three teenagers killed in the St Patricks Day tragedy at the Greenvale Hotel in Dungannon.

One mum said her son was caught up directly in the crush and struggled to breath. “He is Ok but very traumatised. We just have to help and support our kids now,” she said. Another mum said her teenage girl was ‘very upset and in shock’.

Several sporting clubs and schools locally are coordinating counselling sessions in the Lurgan and Craigavon area.

High Moss Sarsfields GFC said: “Following on from the tragic events in Cookstown on Sunday evening which some of our young members witnessed along with at least 50 other kids from the Lurgan and surrounding areas you will appreciate the seriousness that our club is taking this. They have had to deal with so much yesterday (Monday) and today (Tuesday) and still have so much to deal with both physically and emotionally. As a committee we want to reassure you all that we as a club will do all we can to help and support your kids and if anyone wants to speak and seek help and support we’re here for you, so please speak up #itsgoodtotalk.

Local girl Eimear Tallon summed up the incident in a moving and heartbreaking online blog.

Greenvale Hotel in Cookstown Co. Tyrone in Northern Ireland where it is believed that two young people have died at a party that was being hosted at the hotel on St Patrick's Day. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. See PA story ULSTER Cookstown. Picture date: Monday March 18, 2019. Photo credit should read: Liam McBurney/PA Wire

She wrote: “It started with pushing and shoving but everyone was still laughing and having a good time. Then the literal crushing started.

“The people on the outside of this line were so determined to get in they felt the need to not only push us against the wall but push with all their strength. No matter how much we screamed and pushed back, there was no movement.

“Two of my friends fell to the ground. I tried to pull them up but at that point there was no room for them to even come back up. So I started screaming at the top of my lungs:

“My friends are on the ground, move back!”

Teenage victims of the disco horror

“My friends have fainted, move back!”

“My friends can’t breath, move back!”

- nothing. Not one bit of movement.

“I could still see people laughing with no idea what was going on. At this point I thought my friends were going to die, I was standing up and I couldn’t breath so I couldn’t imagine how they felt. I was hysterically screaming for people to move but it was only the people around me who knew the seriousness.

“With more and more pushing, I also fell. But the thing about me was that I wasn’t on the ground, I was on top of someone, and this person was on top of someone else. As I looked down I could see multiple bodies underneath me and as I looked up I could see multiple bodies on top of me. It was the most traumatic, frightening and stressful moment of my life.

“I was looking about for my friends and trying to keep my head up. As dramatic as it sounds, I closed my eyes for a little and accepted what was going to happen however, an elbow to my throat soon woke me up. People were scratching, biting and grabbing anything they could to pull themselves up to breath. I think that’s what really shows the seriousness of it all, people were literally fighting for their lives.

“It got to a point where even when I had my eyes open, I couldn’t see. It felt like this went on forever but eventually I felt bodies being dragged over me and beside me. It wasn’t the bouncers and it wasn’t the police, it was the young people in the line who pulled me out.

“My leg was caught underneath someone and my hair was caught somewhere else, my jeans were pulled down around my thighs and my jersey above my head but I was getting pulled out nonetheless. I lay on the ground and opened my eyes, I remember seeing some motionless legs, a few socks and shoes and then I was pulled up and brought away.

“I rang my parents to explain what had happened and let them know I was okay, I then tried to find my friends. I ran about frantically. I seen a young boy lying motionless trying to be resuscitated by the ambulance crew and I seen his friends screech as they found out he wasn’t going to make it.

“I don’t think I will ever experience more relief in my life than when I seen one of my friends that had fallen, I was shocked she was alive. We all eventually found each other apart from my other friend that had fallen. We heard people had seen him, that he was roughed up but he was okay, I needed to see him myself though. He then came running towards us sobbing and all we could do was hug him.

“These ‘people’ aren’t just ‘people’, they were young people, teenagers at 16/17 years old. They were only children.

“It could’ve been anyone.

“Unfortunately, a friend of mine who I had seen in the line and chatted to minutes beforehand has died. Morgan and the two other angels, just like the rest of us, left their families last night for an enjoyable night out but unlike the rest of us, they didn’t make it home. My heart breaks for their poor families.

“There is no sugar coating what happened last night. As it got serious, we banged the windows of the hotel and tried to get help. The people inside simply looked away. While this was happening the gates were still locked and the bouncers were no help. If it wasn’t for the young people doing the right thing and ringing the police, the situation could’ve been so much worse.

“The truth is, this could’ve been prevented. I’m heartbroken.”