Creeslough rescue digger driver speaks publicly for the first time in new TG4 current affairs programme
A digger driver who didn’t stop until he had uncovered the last body from the debris of the Creeslough tragedy has spoken publicly for the first time on new TG4 current affairs series.
In the opening programme of a new current affairs series Iniúchadh TG4 which will be broadcast next Wednesday (February 8), Henry Gallagher, 47, from Treantagh, near Letterkenny, County Donegal, reveals how he was spurred on to recover the bodies by the sight of grieving relatives in his rear view mirrors.
“You just see a river of high vis vests (behind me) and I know that among that, there are families waiting on news.
"The only way that they are going to get the news of a loved one being taken out, is for me to get in.”
“I wanted them out. I would have stayed in that digger for ages after that just until I got the bodies out,” he said.
The digger driver volunteered to take part in the recovery operation following a plea for help by the Fire Brigade at the scene of the explosion.
“One of the lead firemen came up to me and described that there’s so many bodies inside, and we can’t get at them'', he said.
Mr Gallagher remained in the cab of his excavator for twenty-four hours removing rubble from the collapsed building until the last body of ten, that of 14-year-old Leona Harper was recovered.
The teenager’s mother Donna Harper singled Mr Gallagher out for praise at her daughter’s funeral.
Mr Gallagher said in an exclusive interview for the documentary Iniúchadh TG4: “I done what any other person would have done. The ordinary people were amazing.
"I mean I’ve heard stories of people running in to the building, people bringing other people out of the building. They were taking people out and they were crying (and) they were screaming. Any person we took out, wasn’t crying or screaming.”
The documentary called 'Iniúchadh TG4 - An Craoslach' investigates how locals from the Donegal village came together in the immediate aftermath of the explosion to pick through the rubble of Lafferty’s garage to rescue their neighbours before the emergency services arrived on the scene.
Lorry driver Colin Kilpatrick from Raphoe, Co. Donegal who was making a delivery in Cresslough witnessed the explosion and was among the first rescuers at the garage forecourt where he managed to help free one of the injured by using a car jack to lift concrete slabs. “People got out and people didn’t get out, but what we done, worked,” he said.
Ten people lost their lives and eight were injured in the explosion at Lafferty’s supermarket in Creeslough on the 7th October. The dead were five-year-old Shauna Flanagan Garwe and her dad Robert Garwe, 50, Catherine O'Donnell, 39, and her son James Monaghan, 13. Leona Harper, 14, Jessica Gallagher, 24, James O'Flaherty, 48, Martin McGill, 49,Martina Martin, 49 and Hugh Kelly, 59 also lost their lives. The Gardaí are still investigating the cause of the blast. A gas explosion remains a major line of inquiry.
The programme is the first of a new six-part monthly current affairs and investigative documentaries looking behind the headlines of major Irish news stories that will be broadcast by TG4 this year. The series is presented by award-winning Belfast-based investigative journalist Kevin Magee.
Kevin said: “At the time of tragic event in Creeslough, we heard about the extraordinary bravery and courage of the first wave of rescuers, local people who ran to help their trapped neighbours before the emergency services got there. This programme gives the ordinary people who helped a voice and hears in their own words the extraordinary things they did, often at great danger to themselves in the face of appalling adversity.”
The series Iniúchadh TG4 is made by the Belfast based production company Clean Slate Television for TG4.
Iniúchadh TG4 airs on TG4 on Wednesday 8th February at 9:30pm and will also be available to view worldwide on the TG4 Player.