A Muff family have told how their “paradise” holiday turned to “horror” when they were involved in a terrifying traffic accident.
Daithi McGonigal, his wife Eithne and their 14-year-old daughter Caoimhe were all injured - Eithne seriously - when the jeep in which they and seven others were travelling in, lost control and hurtled towards a cliff edge in Kusadasi, Turkey.
The tree saved us from certain death and the abyssDaithi McGonagal
Daithi, from Drumhaggart, told the ‘Journal’ they were only saved as the vehicle smashed into a tree, with the impact throwing him out of the vehicle.
Caoimhe, who was initially trapped in the jeep, sustained bad bruising to her back, neck and wrist. Daithi fractured ribs and had serious concussion. Eithne sustained four fractures of her pelvis and one of her vertebrae and underwent surgery yesterday in Belfast.
Daithi said that while the collision itself was a nightmare, their trauma continued and when they were informed they would not be covered by insurance for hospital treatment and would have to foot the 20,000 euro
Daithi told the ‘Journal’ he was grateful for the strong support they received from home, including from local public representatives Councillor Jack Murray, Deputy Padraig MacLochlainn, MEP Matt Carthy and an Irish embassy representative, who acted on their behalf. The decision on insurance was later reversed.
He said their family, friends and the local community, including Fr John Farren also rallied around from home and this was “heart warming and welcome.”
Daithi told how he and Eithne had to “manage between” them in the hospital - Caoimhe travelled home earlier - adding there were times when his wife was in extreme pain and continued to deteriorate.
He told how, at one stage, she was being turned, while in considerable pain, by three nurses, a cleaner and a chef.
Daithi said Eithne was taken to the airport by an “ambulance from the Second World War,” which had no seatbelts, at an excessive speed, adding she was carried to the plane “like an animal.”
Daithi and Eithne are now home and it has since been confirmed Eithne broke her pelvis both front and back. She later underwent surgery in Belfast.
Daithi told how he wondered if he and his family would survive when they were involved in the collision.
He said it had been their sixth time visiting the ‘paradise’ region, a place of “fun, laughter and relaxation.”
This, however, turned to horror when they were involved in a collision while on a safari trip, with Daithi telling how his wife and daughter felt an “unnatural dread” or “sixth sense” before they set off and wanted to go back to the hotel.
He said while the initial part of the trip was “fantastic,” the driver was travelling at 50-60kph until he accelerated and “surreal horror struck.”
“We were being hit by leaves and branches. The jeep was travelling uncontrollably down the mountainside, I remember Eithne shouting to Caoimhe to hold on to the bars, as she tried to protect her.
“The jeep was now rotating over, we were helpless. Bodies and heads crashed into each other and then we came to a shuddering stop as the jeep hit a tree.
“I was thrown into the air, wondering if I would survive, then the world went black.
I wakened to moans and screams, to what seemed like a horror dreamlike moment. Realisation emerged, ‘Where was Caoimhe?’ ‘Where was Eithne?’ ‘Oh my God are they alive?”
Daithi praised the actions of a ‘hero,’ a honeymooner who was also on the trip, Chris Flaherty from Mayo.
He said Chris dragged him and another passenger from harm’s way, as the tree holding the jeep was in the process of giving way and hurtling on to their path.
He also turned off the jeep engine and threw barbeque gas canisters, which were in the vehicle, over the cliff which was about “100 metres away.
“The tree saved us from certain death and the abyss,” said Daithi.
After making their way to a roadside, with a seriously injured Eithne on a makeshift stretcher, Daithi said the hospital was like a scene from a film, with a language barrier and Eithne in terrible pain.
He paid tribute to a paramedic called Serkan, who he said was very kind to them and a doctor, who has flown from England to accompany them.