Tributes were tonight paid to a dad and two children killed when their car plunged off the road, with one friend saying “you simply couldn’t have met nicer people”.
John Mullan, 49, and children Tomas, 14, and Amelia, 6, from Moville, all died in the horror plunge after their car entered the Lough Foyle estuary in Co Donegal, Ireland.
A priest revealed how he prayed with the “hysterical” mum who escaped from the car after it plunged off the road – killing her husband and children.
Friar John Farren said Geraldine Mullan, 45, was “hysterical from grief” as he attempted to comfort her as they “prayed with the three deceased” at the scene.
Garda Superintendent Eugene McGovern told the Mirror’s sister title, the Irish Mirror, how the loss of Mr Mullan and the two children has come as a great blow to the area.
He said: “It is just difficult to find words for the families involved. Mr and Mrs Mullan’s families have been informed of the situation and that is why we are now releasing their names.
“This is an awful tragedy for the immediate families but also for the wider community as the family are well known and respected in the locality.”
Meanwhile, local Donegal Deputies Padraig Mac Lochlainn and Pearse Doherty have expressed the sympathy of the community following the tragedy.
Deputy Mac Lochlainn said: “This is such a heartbreaking tragedy and myself and Deputy Pearse Doherty want to convey our deepest sympathy to the family and friends of the man and two children who have died.
“The people of Inishowen and Donegal have suffered more than most from road tragedies over the years and we have no doubt that our people will do all that we can to support the devastated family at this terrible time and in the time ahead”.
Mr Mullan worked at the Moville garden centre while Mrs Mullan is a nurse at Letterkenny University Hospital.
Both their children attended schools in Moville.
A friend said the family were quiet and “kept themselves to themselves” but went out of their way to help anyone who needed help.
Local county councillor Martin Farren said he grew up with Mr Mullan and knew the family well.
He said he is simply in shock like the rest of the local community.
“It’s just impossible to put into words how people are feeling in the community right now, it’s just devastating.
“You simply couldn’t have met nicer people and anybody will say the same. Our thoughts and prayers are with the family at this time, such a very, very sad time.”
Also paying tribute was Tomas Mullan’s school who described the teen as “an extremely popular student.”
Tomas Mullan, 14, was entering third year at Moville Community College.
A statement issued by school principal Anthony Doogan said everyone is grieving the loss of three members of their school community.
He said “We are deeply saddened by their deaths. We also keep in our thoughts the children’s mother Geraldine and wish her a speedy recovery.
“Our thoughts and prayers are with the wider families and friends of Tomas, John and Amelia at this time.
“Tomas was an extremely popular second-year student with a close circle of friends. He loved Judo and was a keen musician.
“One of my abiding memories of Tomas will be of a young man walking to his music lessons with his accordion slung over his back. He will be deeply missed by his family and close friends.”
The Student Support Team in the college has put in place supports for friends and classmates of Tomas.
“As we begin the process of returning to school in these challenging times, I anticipate that the next few weeks will be difficult for everyone,” added Mr Doogan.
Fr Farren, the parish priest of Ishkaheen in the village of Muff, told of his attempts to comfort and pray with the mum who escaped from the family car.
He said: “It’s a terribly tragic incident, it’s just beyond words.”
He said he prayed with the mother at the scene of the crash for a short time.
He added: “She was completely shocked…totally distressed and I was with her when we prayed with the three deceased.”
The family were returning from a day out in Derry when they lost control of their vehicle and careered down an embankment and into Lough Foyle.
Mr Mullan died after becoming trapped in the family’s black Mitsubishi ASX SUV car.
The two children managed to get out of the car but tragically perished.
Mrs Mullan managed to get onto the upturned wreckage of the car and was rescued.
She was rushed to Letterkenny University Hospital where her injuries are not life-threatening although Irish police – Gardai – say she has been left severely traumatised.
Supt. McGovern, of Buncrana Garda station, was also at the scene of the tragedy last night.
He said conditions were poor and the night was wet and windy.
He also revealed how the stretch of road at the Three Trees near Quigley’s Point had recently been resurfaced and investigators will examine if this may have contributed to the tragedy.
He said: “We knew fairly early on that we were dealing with a family situation here and it was very difficult.
“We still don’t know what caused Mr Mullan to veer off the road but we will carry out a full investigation into all the circumstances.
“I was a wet and windy night and the stretch of road where the crash happened had recently been resurfaced so that will form part of our investigation,” he said.
Supt. McGovern appealed to anybody who was in the area at the time and who may have noticed anything to contact them.
“We have already received a lot of information but anybody who may have been in the area and witnessed anything to contact us at Buncrana Garda Station on (074) 9320540, the Garda Confidential Line 1800 666 111 or any Garda Station.”