Tributes paid after talented rugby player named among victims of Irish petrol station blast that claimed ten lives

8 October 2022, 20:40 | Updated: 8 October 2022, 20:42

Tributes have been paid to Leona Harper, who died in the blast
Tributes have been paid to Leona Harper, who died in the blast. Picture: Facebook/Alamy

By Asher McShane

Tributes have been paid after a teenage girl was identified among victims of the Irish petrol station blast that claimed ten lives.

Among those killed at the Applegreen Service Station in the village of Creeslough, Co Donegal was talented rugby player Leona Harper.

Ten people died in the explosion at the village petrol station
Ten people died in the explosion at the village petrol station. Picture: Picture: Dublin Fire Brigade/Alamy

Her local rugby team posted a tribute on Facebook this evening, writing: "We are heartbroken to say our worst fears have been confirmed. Leona Harper tragically lost her life yesterday in Creeslough.

"Leona was a talented rugby player and an important part of our U14 girls team.

"To Leona's parents, Hugh and Donna, her brothers Anthony and Jamie, and all of her team mates, we offer you our deepest condolences and support.

Four men, three women, a teenage boy and girl and a young child all died
Four men, three women, a teenage boy and girl and a young child all died. Picture: Alamy

"There are no words that feel strong enough at a moment of deep sorrow such as this. Rest in peace, Leona."

Four men, three women, a teenage boy and girl and a young child all died in the huge explosion. Another eight people are in hospital.

Sniffer dogs were deployed to comb through the rubble in a desperate search for the missing people.

The local community in Co Donegal has been devastated by the tragic event
The local community in Co Donegal has been devastated by the tragic event. Picture: Alamy

In an update earlier this afternoon, officials said they are not expecting any further casualties but that search and rescue efforts are continuing in the Co Donegal village of Creeslough.

"Emergency services continue a search and recovery operation at the site this afternoon but based on the information available to An Garda Siochana at this time it is not expected that there will be any further casualties located and there are no outstanding reports of unaccounted for persons," a statement said.

The explosion happened at around 3.15pm yesterday. Three people were initially confirmed dead with the death toll rising to seven overnight.

Another three people were found this morning.

Speaking to PA, Sinn Fein TD Pearse Doherty said: “The rescue and recovery operation went on through the night.

"This explosion not only ripped the heart out of this building, but ripped the heart out of this community and left a huge amount of devastation.

"In the early hours four more bodies were recovered, bringing the overall death toll to seven.

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Irish Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney has described "a dark day for Ireland".

"Our hearts & prayers go out to all impacted & the community of Creeslough," he tweeted.

"We are so thankful to all emergency services and our friends from NI who have been so helpful in such difficult circumstances."

The President of Ireland, Michael D Higgins, has spoken about his shock of the ‘terrible tragedy’.

"May I, as president, express what I know will be the shock shared by all people throughout the country on learning of the terrible tragedy which has unfolded in Creeslough, Co Donegal," he said.

"All of our thoughts must go out to all of those who have been affected. Those who have received news of the loss of a loved one, those injured and, most of all, those who are waiting with anxiety for news of their loved ones.

"This tragedy is a terrible blow to a community that is closely knit and where every loss and injury will be felt by every member of the community and far beyond.

"Special tribute must be paid to those members of the local community and emergency services across the island who have reacted so swiftly to the scene of the explosion and have continued to work through the night.

"All of our best thoughts and prayers go to those who have lost their lives and their families."

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