The-12-year-old son of one of the victims of the devastating blast in Creeslough narrowly escaped serious injury.
Hamish O’Flaherty, whose father James died in the explosion, was sitting in his father’s Volvo in the service station forecourt at 3.20pm last Friday, looking out the passenger window.
As the Irish Examiner reports, he dropped something in the car and leaned forward to pick it up just as the explosion, which claimed the lives of 10 people, destroyed the service station and adjacent apartment block.
Dr Daniel Gill, a neighbour of the O’Flaherty family, said Hamish’s actions “saved him from a significant injury”.
News of the 12-year-old’s escape emerged as distraught families paid tribute to their loved ones.
Donna Harper told Highland Radio yesterday that she was initially told her 14-year-old daughter Leona might have made it to a hospital, only to discover it was a mistake and the teenager “didn’t make it out”.
Leona’s body, the last to be retrieved from the ruins of the service station, was only recovered on Saturday afternoon, 24 hours after the blast.
Donna also thanked the driver who refused to give up trying to get Leona out until the very end.
The 14-year-old’s father Hugh described her as “like everybody else’s daughter”. But, his voice breaking as he spoke, saying: “To us, she was very special. She is going to be very sorely missed”.
Local men Colin Kilpatrick and Bernard McGinley assisted in the rescue effort, describing it as “unreal” and “unimaginable”.
Mr McGinley’s daughter works in the shop part-time, but was not working at the time of the explosion.
“It hit me that my daughter could have been there,” he added. “I knew everyone in the shop." He continued:
It hits hard. The first man Colin tried to rescue died in his arms. My memory is better because it is rescuing a little girl and she is OK. That’s what I will hang on to.
The first of the funeral services take place today, with a service for Jessica Gallagher taking place at 11am in St Michael’s in Creeslough.
It will be followed by Martin McGill’s funeral at 2pm.
The funeral for James O’Flaherty will be held in the Gaeltacht village of Derrybeg in Gweedore, northwest Donegal, on Wednesday.