As many as 100 Derry runners who took part in last weekend’s Omagh Half Marathon, ran just yards away from the bomb which killed PSNI Constable Ronan Kerr, it’s emerged.
Athletes and supporters had travelled in large numbers from the city to the popular annual sporting event and were unaware as the race started in the early afternoon that part of their route took them alongside the lethal device which at that point, lay under the 25-year-old PSNI officer’s car.
Well known City of Derry Sparta coach Noel McMonagle, who ran the half marathon with his 19-year-old daughter Aoife, described the bomb as being “shockingly close” to participants and onlookers, many of whom were children.
“I know the route well because I’ve done the half marathon there a number of times and once I heard what had happened I knew we were very very near to where the bomb went off. It could have been catastrophic,” he told the Sunday Journal.
“It’s a terrible thing to say but the first thought you have is that you’re glad you’re out of it. We all thought we’d left all this behind us.”
The local athlete said everyone on the day felt that the PSNI had done a fantastic job in marshalling the race. “It was only after the run that a few of us were commenting on how good the PSNI had been stewarding the event. They did a great job on the day and it’s just a pity that this tragedy unfolded on what was such a glorious and enjoyable day,” he said.
“I think the message we have to get out is that we can’t let things like this deter people from taking part in and enjoying similar events.”
A photo highlighting the proximity of the marathon route to the scene of Const. Kerr’s murder was released by police on Thursday.
The photo shows Const Kerr’s black Ford Mondeo car parked outside his home in Highfield Court. Yards away, it shows two unidentified men competing in the half marathon running along the Glencam Road in Omagh and a five year old girl watching them. It was taken around 1.40pm. Police believe the device, which may have contained up to half a kilo of high explosives, had already been planted under Const Kerr’s car by this time. Two hours later 25 year-old Const Kerr got into the car and the bomb detonated, killing him instantly.
Derry woman Sandra Doherty, a runner with local club Foyle Valley said knowing she had run straight past the bomb was “ a very scary feeling.”