Northern Ireland

Cookstown hotel deaths: Witness recalls horror

Items at the scene in Cookstown Image copyright Pacemaker
Image caption Police said a large group of young people had been waiting to get into the disco

An eyewitness to an incident in Cookstown, County Tyrone, in which three teenagers died, has described how "pushing and shoving" led to "literal crushing".

Lauren Bullock, 17, Connor Currie, 16, and Morgan Barnard, 17, died after reports of a crush outside the Greenvale Hotel on Sunday night.

The hotel was hosting a St Patrick's Day party.

Eimear Tallon recalled the horror in a Facebook post on Monday:

"It started with pushing and shoving but everyone was still laughing and having a good time.

Then the literal crushing started.

The people on the outside of this line were so determined to get in they felt the need to not only push us against the wall but push with all their strength.

No matter how much we screamed and pushed back, there was no movement.

Image copyright PA
Image caption Flowers were left outside the Greenvale Hotel in Cookstown on Monday

Two of my friends fell to the ground. I tried to pull them up but at that point there was no room for them to even come back up.

So I started screaming at the top of my lungs:

My friends are on the ground, move back!

My friends have fainted, move back!

My friends can't breathe, move back!

Nothing. Not one bit of movement.

I could still see people laughing with no idea what was going on.

At this point I thought my friends were going to die, I was standing up and I couldn't breathe so I couldn't imagine how they felt.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Daylight on Monday revealed the scene of the incident

I was hysterically screaming for people to move but it was only the people around me who knew the seriousness.

With more and more pushing, I also fell.

But the thing about me was that I wasn't on the ground, I was on top of someone, and this person was on top of someone else.

As I looked down I could see multiple bodies underneath me and as I looked up I could see multiple bodies on top of me.

It was the most traumatic, frightening and stressful moment of my life.

I was looking about for my friends and trying to keep my head up.

As dramatic as it sounds, I closed my eyes for a little and accepted what was going to happen however, an elbow to my throat soon woke me up.

Image copyright Pacemaker
Image caption Signs of the panic remained in the hotel car park

People were scratching, biting and grabbing anything they could to pull themselves up to breathe.

I think that's what really shows the seriousness of it all - people were literally fighting for their lives.

It got to a point where even when I had my eyes open. I couldn't see.

It felt like this went on forever but eventually I felt bodies being dragged over me and beside me.

It wasn't the bouncers and it wasn't the police, it was the young people in the line who pulled me out.

My leg was caught underneath someone and my hair was caught somewhere else, my jeans were pulled down around my thighs and my jersey above my head but I was getting pulled out nonetheless.

'Motionless legs'

I lay on the ground and opened my eyes, I remember seeing some motionless legs, a few socks and shoes and then I was pulled up and brought away.

I rang my parents to explain what had happened and let them know I was okay, I then tried to find my friends.

I ran about frantically.

I saw a young boy lying motionless trying to be resuscitated by the ambulance crew and I saw his friends screech as they found out he wasn't going to make it.

I don't think I will ever experience more relief in my life than when I saw one of my friends that had fallen, I was shocked she was alive.

We all eventually found each other apart from my other friend that had fallen.

Image copyright PA
Image caption Forensic officers at the scene on Monday

We heard people had seen him, that he was roughed up but he was okay,

I needed to see him myself though.

He then came running towards us sobbing and all we could do was hug him.

These 'people' aren't just 'people', they were young people, teenagers at 16/17 years old. They were only children.

It could've been anyone.

Unfortunately, a friend of mine who I had seen in the line and chatted to minutes beforehand has died.

Morgan and the two other angels, just like the rest of us, left their families last night for an enjoyable night out but unlike the rest of us, they didn't make it home. My heart breaks for their poor families.

There is no sugar coating what happened last night."

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