Driver arrested after car speeds into crowds at cemetery

By Aine Fox and Emma Bowden, PA

A grandfather was seriously injured when a car drove at speed through a cemetery, as thousands of people attended an annual blessing of the graves service.

The elderly man was among a number of people hurt in the “terrifying” incident at St Patrick’s Cemetery in Co Louth, the parish priest said.

Police said a man aged in his 20s, who is believed to be the driver, was arrested at the scene in Dowdallshill, Dundalk, on Sunday afternoon.

The injured man was taken to Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital in Drogheda, while a “small number of people received superficial injuries”, Gardai said.

(PA Graphics)

Footage posted online showed emergency services in attendance as a large crowd gathered – said by Fr Mark O’Hagan to have been thousands – in the cemetery.

The priest told PA: “I could hear this screaming and shouting. And there was a lot of people running and a lot of people screaming.”

The driver sped through the graveyard past the priest towards a car park before driving back towards him and mounting the kerb, Fr O’Hagan said.

Damage caused to a car after it collided with parked cars near the cemetery (PA)

He added: “I tried to wave at him to try and slow him down or stop him.

“He sped on straight through the people again. It was terrifying.”

A local man who wanted to be known only as Darren, said: “I am from Dundalk. I have been going to the blessing of the graves for the last 20 years and never once saw any trouble.

“Never saw so many frightened people.”

He praised a woman who he said kept people calm and informed during the incident, using a speaker system that was in place for the service.

A man is detained following the incident at St Patrick’s cemetery (PA)

He said: “I don’t know her name but during the whole event she was superb at keeping the crowd calm and informed. She made sure to have the centre entrance clear for the arriving ambulances  and I feel she deserved an incredible amount of credit.”

Sinn Fein councillor Ruairi O Murchu, who was not at the event but spoke to some people who were, said: “They were utterly shocked. People are angry. There had been a huge amount of young kids there at the time.

“People who were very close to where the car sped through were jumping aside.”

When the car exited the cemetery, it collided with parked cars on the road before stopping, police said.

The scene in St Patrick’s Cemetery, Dowdallshill in Dundalk (@Simonc46176551/PA)

Gardai said: “A man in his late 20s, believed to the driver, was arrested at the scene. He is currently detained at Dundalk Garda Station under the provisions of Section 4 – Criminal Justice Act 1984.”

The force appealed for witnesses, especially anyone with video footage of the incident, to get in touch.

Dundalk Garda Station can be contacted on 042-9388400, the Garda Confidential line 1800-666-111 or any Garda Station.