A female rally co-driver and a sports photographer were killed yesterday when a car ploughed into the crowd at a road race in Cavan.
Seven others, including the driver and co-driver, were also injured when a Ford Escort lost control and crashed in a group of about 30 spectators in Co Cavan, Ireland.
The victims were named locally as Caroline Cleary, a navigator in the sport from Wexford who was not taking part in the Cavan Stages Rally, and Joe Lane, a part-time photographer from Galway who regularly contributed to motorsport publications.
Gardaí and Motorsport Ireland, which governs the sport, have launched separate investigations into the accident, which happened at around 11.10am at Monaghanoose, about a mile outside Bailieboro.
Superintendent Gerry O’Brien, of Bailieboro Garda Station, said a rally car went over a hump in the road and lost control as it landed.
“It drove into a group of spectators,” he said.
“We understand that the group accounted of about 30-odd people.
“Of those, unfortunately and regrettably, two died at the scene and another five were brought to Cavan General Hospital with injuries.”
The deaths of Ms Cleary, 30, from Tagoat, Co Wexford, and Mr Lane, 50, from Kilgoggin, Co Galway, have plunged Ireland’s motorsport community into grief.
The extent of the injuries suffered by the spectators, driver and co-driver is not known.
Witness Matthew McMahon said he saw the car go over the crest of a road before he heard it skid.
“I don’t know if something broke on the car or if he just lost control,” he told RTÉ.
“Then I just heard people screaming and people shouting ‘red flag, red flag, stop the stage’.
“Then all hell broke loose basically with people crying, people white as ghosts as if something serious had happened.
“And then someone mentioned ‘somebody’s been killed’ and we found out how serious it was.”
:: Motorsport community in shock
More than 100 cars were competing in the event, which had attracted thousands of spectators.
The road and car are being forensically examined by collision investigators and remain closed to traffic.
Cavan Motor Club, which staged the event, said the accident happened on stage one of the special stages rally.
“At this time all our energy is focused on the families of those involved in this tragic accident,” it said.
Motorsport Ireland extended its sympathies to the families and friends of the dead and injured.
Chief executive Alex Sinclair said 90 per cent of its effort and resources go into ensuring the safety of these events.
“When something like this happens it just so unexpected, it’s so out of the blue.” he added.
“It’s very difficult for people to come to terms with.”
Neither Wexford nor Galway Motor Clubs would comment.
The tragedy follows others which have devastated the sport in recent years.
Teenage rally fan Richard O’Donnell, from Strabane, was killed as he tried to cross a country road during the Donegal International Rally in 2008.
The 18-year-old was struck by a competing Ford Fiesta on the eleventh stage of the competition, which is one of the biggest sporting events in the country.
Two years ago co-driver Thomas Maguire died in a crash in the Donegal Rally, and in 2002 two stewards were killed at the event.