On Friday, residents of Ireland, Robert Garwe, 50, and his elementary school-aged daughter, Shauna, had planned to make a celebrant happy. They headed to a shop in Creeslough, County Donegal, to shop for a birthday cake for Shauna’s mom, but they did not make it out alive.
A 50-year-old man, Robert Garwe, and his 5-year-old daughter, Shauna Flanagan, had hoped to celebrate life with Àine, the girl’s mom, on her birthday.
The pair wanted to give Àine a treat, so they headed to a nearby store to get a cake, but unfortunately, they became victims of a fatal gas station explosion in Ireland on Friday, October 7, 2022.
According to a source close to the family, “she had gone to the shop with her dad to buy her mom a birthday cake, and they were caught up in the explosion.”
Shauna was a young girl who had only begun her school life. She was the only child of her mom, and this disaster left Àine, as well as the entire family, devastated. The insider added:
“This is only a small village and this incident has really hit us hard.”
Áine always had a strong bond with her little princess. Via her Facebook page, she delighted in sharing mother-daughter moments through photos. A female friend close to the Garwe family shared a heart-melting post on Facebook.
First, the Facebook user extended a heart of condolence to the family; then, she shared her experience with Robert and how much of a sweet soul he was as a co-worker. The caption stated:
“I was privileged to work with #robertgarwe… I got to know Robert well during his time living in Dublin. He was a highly intelligent and beautiful man, who met difficulties and challenges with courage, I am so sorry to hear this dreadful, tragic news and to think of Robert and his little girl and every one who have been lost to us all in Ireland….”
Fergus Brennan, who runs a shop in the area, confessed that Shauna had a bubbly personality. The shop owner revealed that the 5-year-old was a “beautiful little girl” who often strolled into the store for lollipops.
Other Victims Killed in the Explosion
The explosion is still under investigation by the Ireland police, known as An Garda Siochána. Following the blast, authorities informed the public there were ongoing investigations. They continue to update the public via their Facebook page on the progress of the investigation.
Unfortunately, this disaster razed a three-story building that housed the gas station complex; it also spread to other nearby buildings. In the end, the blast claimed the lives of ten people, including Robert and Shauna.
According to the details published on the local police page, the bodies of all ten persons have remained in the Letterkenny University Hospital under the directions of Dr. Heidi Okkers, the Assistant State Pathologist. The results would remain confidential for operational purposes.
The ten reported dead were Robert, 50; Shauna, 5; Leona Harper, 14; James O’Flaherty, 48; Jessica Gallagher, 24; Martin McGill, 49; a mother and son—Catherine O’Donnell, 39 and James Monaghan, 13; Hugh Kelly, 59 and Martina Martin, 49.
Although there were casualties recorded, about eight people survived the blast. Reportedly seven survivors are currently in stable condition as they continue to receive treatment in Letterkenny Hospital. Sadly, the last survivor, a young male, is fighting for his life at the St. James Hospital in Dublin.
Leona was the only female teenager who did not survive the explosion. Nevertheless, the young lady had a promising future; she was a student at Mulroy College in Milford, an ardent football fan, and a rugby and boxing lover.
Unfortunately, she was in the building during the blast. Leona was with a friend, shopping for ice cream. She had planned on having a sleepover.
After the accident, her parents had to wait for the authorities to recover her body, as she was trapped in the building for some time. While speaking about the tragedy, Donna Harper, the girl’s mom, said:
“I did personally know the digger driver, massive thank you to him because he just didn’t stop until he got her. It was 24 hours before we got her, she was the last taken out.”
She noted, “But the doctors and everybody were amazing; they treated the whole thing from start to finish with nothing more than respect.”
The 14-year-old is survived by her parents, Donna and Hugh, and her two brothers, Anthony and Jamie, who all wished she had never left. In describing the deceased, Hugh shared:
“Leona was a little gem, very outgoing and friendly, lovely. She was very quiet and laidback and loved life and the outdoors. Walking through fields, fishing, and spending time with friends going to car shows.”
Jessica Gallagher and Her Boyfriend
Gallagher was a student at a university in Paris. She was fashion-conscious and loved to explore the Asian continent.
She and her boyfriend were residents of a home above the gas station shop. They were at home when the explosions took place. While it killed Gallagher, it left her lover in critical condition—he is still receiving treatment.
One of her close friends revealed that Gallagher’s death was painful to many people, including those who knew her in the community and her friends. According to the source:
“Jessica was a lovely girl, she grew up in Creeslough and went to school here. She had a lot of friends, who are understandably distraught at the news.”
Gone Forever but Never Forgotten
Thousands of people have shared comforting messages to families that suffered the tragedy. However, the entire town is still shocked by the catastrophe.
Pope Francis extended his heart to the victims through his representative, Bishop of Raphoe Alexander McGuckian, who shared a statement that read, “as a pledge of strength and peace in the lord, the Holy Father sends his blessing to all the people of Ireland.”
Garda Superintendent Liam Geraghty maintained that the tragedy would seriously impact the community. In his words:
“They were all people who were shopping in their local shop. We have very, very young children. The schools are going to be impacted, the GAA clubs are going to be impacted, the local church, in general the community is going to be severely impacted by this incident.”
Many have come out to support the victims’ families via their kind words, prayers, and donations. An Australian resident whose hometown is Creeslough set up a Gofundme for the victims and their families.
The Gofundme initiator, Gerard McFadden, claimed he desired to raise funds for the families affected by these deaths. He wrote:
“I would like to raise as much funds as possible to help the families of the deceased and injured through these challenging times ahead. Thoughts and prayers are with the families and all the community.”
A Sunday mass at the town’s local church, St. Micheal, was held in honor of the victims. Declan Meehan, who also organized a vigil, confirmed that it was important for the community to unify as they grieved.
Meehan admitted that such a tragedy has never happened, adding, “it’s a much, much longer road to grieve properly and process it and to heal.”
Many supporters stood in the rain to show their respect. There were also several musical tributes, and political leaders acknowledged the tragedy.
Taoiseach Micheál Martin, Donegal TD Charlie McConalogue, and Tánaiste Leo Varadkar visited the area and shared their condolences.