Newtown bus driver hailed a ‘hero’

Coach driver Francis McKelvey fromn Manorcunningham whose quick action may have saved lives pictured at the scene of the accident outside Inver on the main road to Ardara. 2606MVBritton1 RTA Inver
Coach driver Francis McKelvey fromn Manorcunningham whose quick action may have saved lives pictured at the scene of the accident outside Inver on the main road to Ardara. 2606MVBritton1 RTA Inver

A quick-thinking Inishowen bus driver is a hero who saved the lives of pensioners in a crash after swerving to avoid an out-of-control car, his boss said yesterday.

Newtowncunnigham’s Frank McKelvey (58) was the driver of a coach which collided with a car in west Donegal on Saturday which left 51 people in hospital.

All the pensioners on a day out were treated for shock, with just three people held overnight for more serious injuries including the 18-year-old driver of the car.

Yesterday Mr McKelvey described his role in avoiding a head-on collision as he saw the car coming towards him.

“I just knew straight away I had to take evasive action with the bus or we would have had a head-on collision and the car would have gone under my vehicle,” he recalled as he re-visited the scene of the crash.

“I knew there was going to be a collision because the two vehicles were so close but I reckoned that if the car collided with the side of the bus instead of the front there was a chance of saving lives.”

He said he swerved to avoid a head-on collision, and the car instead clipped the site of his coach, scraping along it and ending up 50 metres behind it.

“The bus ended up in a ditch on the left-hand side,” he said, “I had to walk down to the bottom of the bus and open the end door for people to get out.

“Everybody remained calm and myself and a few helpers and people who arrived at the scene started helping the old folk out.”

Letterkenny General Hospital implemented an emergency plan, with staff on leave brought it to help treat 49 pensioners for shock.

The pensioners were all from the St Johnston and Carrigans areas of east Donegal on a day out in the west of the county organised by a community group.

Bus owner Bernard McGuinness said Frank’s experience had saved lives. He hailed him as a hero.

“A doctor at the hospital told some of the pensioners that they owed their lives to Frank,” said Mr McGuinness.

“This accident would have been an awful tragedy and lives would certainly have been lost were it not for the reactions and ability of Frank. He’s a hero as far everyone is concerned,” he said.

Letterkenny General Hospital implemented an emergency plan, with staff on leave brought it to help.

Three people were being treated there yesterday for more serious injuries, said the HSE.