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Ceremony marks 25 years since Ballygawley bus bomb

SOME of those who treated the victims of the Ballygawley bus bombing have joined a special commemoration to mark the 25th anniversary of the atrocity this morning (Sunday).

Eight soldiers were killed when the 200lb bomb was detonated at the Newtownsaville junction of the A5 just before 12.30am on Saturday August 20 1988.

The bombing was the worst single loss involving British troops in the North since the Narrow Water attack which claimed the lives of 18 soldiers on August 27 1979.

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The Ulster Bus coach had been carrying 39 soldiers of the first battalion of the British Army’s Light Infantry Regiment returning to the camp in Omagh after a short break in Britain.

Picking the soldiers up at Aldergrove Airport, the bus, driven by a soldier, came under attack when an IRA unit lying in wait denoted 200lbs of Semtex and fertilizer by the roadside at the townland of Curr, nine miles from Omagh.

The bus had just passed the bomb’s position as it exploded, sending the unarmoured vehicle careering down the road, catapulting the dead and injured in every direction, before it came to a rest in the ditch against an ash tree.

PANDEMONIUM

Among the first onto that scene of panic and pandemonium which ensued were two bus loads of bandsmen from Omagh Protestant Boys and Derry’s Star of the Valley, returning from an event in Portadown. They were soon joined in the damp darkness by local people reacting to the massive explosion.

Their efforts were later bolstered by the arrival of the emergency services, when the scale of the devastation became apparent.

In all, six bodies were laid out in the middle of the road, with the rest rushed to hospitals in Omagh and Dungannon. Two more soldiers would join the list of the dead, with 27 injured.

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The dead were Jayson Burfitt (19), Richard Greener (21), Mark Norsworthy (18), Stephen Wilkinson (18), Jason Winter (19), Blair Bishop (19), Alexander Lewis (18) and Peter Bullock (21). All had been returning to Tyrone to complete six months of a two year tour.

MEMORIAL

Among those who took part in the Sunday memorial were retired GP Dr Clifford McCord, who treated injured soldiers by the roadside and Dr Dominc Pinto, who led the response at Tyrone County Hospital.

The ceremony of remembrance took place at 10.45am this morning at the memorial erected at the site of the bombing in Curr. The service also marked the 30th anniversary of the deaths of four members of the UDR killed in a land mine attack at Gort.

Ronald Alexander (19), John Roxborough (19), Oswell Neely (20) and Thomas Harron (25) died while on mobile patrol on July 13 1983.

The 40th anniversary of Andrew Somerville (20) was also be acknowledged. A soldier with the 15th/6th Lancers, he was also killed in a land mine attack near Ballymacilroy on March 27 1973. A church service in Newtownsaville Parish Church followed afterwards at 11.30am.

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Ulster Herald is published by North West of Ireland Printing & Publishing Company Limited, trading as North-West News Group.
Registered in Northern Ireland, No. R0000576. 10-14 John Street, Omagh, Co. Tyrone, N. Ireland, BT781DW