Rescue at Glenshane Pass
St Johnston and Carrigans Family Resource
Centre organised a trip to Dundonald Ice Rink on Tuesday, 30th March 2010.
Seventeen young people between ages 10 and 13 went on the trip along with Youth
Workers from the Centre and Deborah Clawson who was Community Development Worker
with the Centre.
As they went home on the bus driven by Michael McGee of Carrigans, they reached the Glenshane Pass about 6 pm. There was a snow blizzard and some lorries had jack-knifed near the top of the pass. Some drivers used the wrong side of the road and this prevented the gritters from getting through. Getting the road cleared turned out to be a difficult matter and the passengers of the bus found themselves trapped there for nearly seven hours.
Deborah said, "The children were very good although needing to go to the toilet was the big problem because the conditions outside were dreadful and anyone who had to go out got soaked. There were snow drifts of four to five feet deep. Fortunately they had fairly warm clothes on because they knew they were going to the ice rink. The driver turned the heating for around three hours but had to put it off to safe power in case we were able to move forward. He was really great and managed to organise a bus to pick us up in Dungiven after we were rescued and take us home to St Johnston."
She continued: "It was really wonderful when the Donegal Mountain Rescue Team arrived at the bus at 1 am. The Team Leader, Joe Pond was from Convoy. He talked to the children and reassured them. The fact that he was local helped some of the children who were nervous."
Joe Pond said, "We thought it would be nothing major but I have never seen snow like that in all the years - three foot deep across the carriage way and fire or six food deep in the drifts. We were working from the Dungiven Side and were asked to locate the bus. It was great to find them all well and tell them we came all the way from Donegal just to rescue them. The one thing everyone wanted was a drink of water. We could have carried gallons with us. Everyone was thirsty especially those sitting in cars with the heating on. We walked the children and their leaders to a waiting Landrover. They walked in the blizzard conditions blowing towards them. After the minutes walk there was a half an inch of ice covering all of them. It was bitterly cold."
The landrover the children were taken to was a PSNI Landrover. It transported them to a minibus and then the minibus took them to Dungiven. All involved were provided with thermal blankets. A further shock was that the electricity was down in Dungviven which caused additional stress. It was suggested that it would be better to be transport to Limavady but all desperately wanted to get home and this was not an option. Michael had organised transport from Dungiven to St Johnston and all were delighted when it arrived. They didn't get home to 5 am.