Firefighter praised for ‘phenomenal’ work during terrifying car incident

By Aideen O'Flaherty

AN OFF-Duty firefighter, who was inches away from being struck by a car that lost control in a Clondalkin church carpark this week, spoke to The Echo about the “terrifying” incident – and the first aid he administered to those injured at the scene.

An elderly priest lost control of his car in the carpark of the Immaculate Conception Church in Clondalkin and struck a number of people, resulting in 13 hospitalisations, on Monday morning.

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Firefighter Ray Hurley (left) and emergency services at the scene on Tuesday (right)

A large group of mourners were outside the church awaiting the funeral procession of well-known businessman and father-of-three Dave Breach at the time of the incident.

Shortly after the incident, which it is believed Gardai are treating as an accident, a member of the public contacted The Echo and praised the “phenomenal” work of an off-duty firefighter who was there at the time of the incident, who “took charge” of caring for the injured and ran towards the out of control car when everyone else ran away.

Ray Hurley (40), from Kingswood in Tallaght, a firefighter based in Tara Street Fire Station, was attending the funeral alongside his sister-in-law Annette, who he pushed out of the way of the out of the control car.

They were both standing by Ray’s Jeep awaiting the funeral procession when a car crashed through a bollard that was directly in front of Ray’s Jeep, the car then struck Ray’s car and carried on to hit several people in the vicinity of the carpark.

The car was hitting people

Ray told The Echo: “The car bounced straight off the Jeep and went right by us. I turned around [with the rest of the mourners] and I just heard the engine of the car and ‘thump, thump, thump’ as it was hitting people.

“The car kept accelerating and it got quicker and quicker. At that stage I just thought, ‘Whatever this is, it has to be stopped’, and I went towards the car.”

When Ray went over the car had struck a wall, and two people were pinned to the wall by the priest’s car while one person was trapped under the car.

Describing how he felt when he was approaching the car, Ray said: “It was the scariest three seconds of my life. When I got to the car I pulled the priest’s leg off the accelerator and put the car in park. The priest was so scared. He said sorry to me twice.

“It was a relief because I knew then that what was happening was over.”

After this, Ray then turned his attention to the injured and enlisted the help of members of the public, by requesting belts and t-shirts from them in order to stem bleeding and splint injuries, and a group of people including Ray attempted to lift the car off a man whose leg was trapped under the wheel.

“One of the most helpless feelings was when I thought, ‘Right, I have to get to work here’,” Ray said, “but then I realised I didn’t have any bandages.

“I asked people for belts and t-shirts so that I could use them for bandages, I only needed two but I got about 20.

“I was asking people to hold the injured in the recovery position or to apply pressure to their wounds – I couldn’t have done anything without their help.

Backup was coming

“I knew my backup was coming, and I knew I just had to keep it going and hold it together for ten minutes [until the paramedics arrived].”

When emergency services personnel from Dublin Fire Brigade and the National Ambulance Service arrived on the scene Ray stayed to help out with the injured, and he later attended the funeral of Mr Breach, which was held in the church later that day at the rescheduled time of 1pm.

A Garda spokesperson said on Wednesday afternoon that two of the 13 people who were injured in the incident have sustained serious injuries.

Ray added that while he has seen some other distressing scenes in his 18 years as a firefighter for Dublin Fire Brigade, he still had a degree of shock about the church incident and urged anyone who was there at the time to seek counselling if they are having difficulty.

Ray said: “It was horrific. I’d be worried about people who witnessed that not seeking help.

“If people need to get help I strongly advise that they seek counselling.”

Somers Psychotherapy in Clondalkin are offering free debriefing sessions for anyone who was impacted by the incident, they can be contacted on 087 230 7169.

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