An open letter from a mother who lost her husband and children in a tragic crash in Donegal

Geraldine Mullan expresses her thanks to all who have supported her and who came to assist on the night of the accident

Staff Reporter


Staff Reporter

An open letter from a mother who lost her husband and children in a tragic crash in Donegal

Geraldine Mullan with her husband John and children Tomás and Amelia

Geraldine Mullan, whose husband John and children Tomás and Amelia were killed in a tragic accident this summer in Inishowen, has this week contacted the local media with an open letter of appreciation to all those who have been so supportive to her.

My husband John was a fan of Bruce Springsteen. In normal circumstances he would be currently enjoying Bruce’s latest album “Letter to you” and taking particular interest in the songs, especially the one entitled “House of a thousand guitars” (given John’s love of that instrument). 

But these are not normal days and instead it is me appraising the new offering from The Boss and taking poignant note of some of the other lyrical melodies on the album, particularly those entitled “One minute you’re here” and “I’ll see you in my dreams”. These two songs in particular speak to my situation and have become musical reminders of my beloved departed, my husband John and our children Tomás and Amelia, who were cruelly taken from this world in late August of this year. 

Since the tragedy unfolded, I have been surrounded by many wonderful people and wrapped up in their familial and communal embraces, all united in offering me solace, comfort, assistance and no end of love, understanding and compassion. I stand each day and get through it, in no small part, due to the continuous support you provide to me. 

Such is the outpouring and swell of sympathy and empathy alike, and many are the calls, messages, cards, letters, flowers, gifts, acts of service and human kindness which have reached my Moville doorstep, that I am truly overwhelmed, very much humbled and ever-grateful. I am genuinely appreciative of it all and your love and caring has taken root in my heart and in my head. That being said,  I am  unable to respond to everyone individually, therefore  this is my “Letter to you,” my simple way of acknowledgement and sincere thanks.


Firstly, in regard to that fateful night, forever engrained in my memory,  I am sincerely grateful to everyone that attended the scene and helped in unison in what was an unimaginable, horrific and traumatic situation. 

To the Crossan family and  Conor Mc Daid who were first on the scene, a sincere word of thanks to you … as my Dad referred to you all, you were my guardian angels that night, because of you stopping and raising the alarm, it enabled me to be rescued and the bodies of my loved ones to be found.

To the emergency services, the paramedics, fire brigade, Irish and Scottish Coast Guard, and the Gardai, everyone played their part and all worked together under horrendous conditions.

A special mention has to be given to two individuals on the night.

Firstly, Sergeant Charlene Anderson, for her professionalism, compassion, dignity, respect and diligence from the very first moment when our paths crossed and she grabbing my arm as I was pulled from the water up onto the embankment and staying with me in my distress, keeping me informed on everything that was happening, listening to me and comforting me in the hours that followed. I thank you from the bottom of my heart. My world changed that night of August 20th, but you were there right beside me every step of the way. No one should have to lose their whole family like I did and Charlene was the one who had to break the news that my beloved were all gone, but she did so with true compassion, respect and empathy…..and she has to be commended for the way she did it, all the while managing the accident scene and co-ordinating all the services involved. 

Secondly, Kevin Barr from the Coast Guard service for his bravery, courage and strength for getting into the water to get to me and staying with me until I was rescued from the water. In what can only be described as horrific conditions, Kevin never once let go of me, even though at times in my distress and turmoil I asked him to. I also thank him from the bottom of my heart.  


To the brave efforts of all the emergency services that worked together to get my family out of the water that night, I am indebted to you all. For the solidarity, respect and solace as you all stood in silent reflection and support as I was taken by Charlene and the paramedics to see my darling John, Tomás and  Amelia after their bodies were found, I thank you sincerely. 

To Fr Farren who anointed my beloved family and  prayed for them and me at the scene, it brought great comfort and peace. 

To the amazing work of all the staff in Letterkenny University Hospital, many of them my work colleagues for the past  17 years, I, along with my and  John’s family were all treated with empathy, compassion and support during the following two days after I was admitted following injuries sustained. 

Thank you seems too little to say to each and every one of you for all your help shown to me and my extended family during that time, but it was very much appreciated. 

The journey home on Saturday from the chapel of rest when I followed the three hearses carrying my family, I was once again overwhelmed by the respect, support and compassion shown along the way.  The guard of honour at the Chapel of Rest, at the hospital, to everyone lining the road and standing in solidarity will stay with me forever. The Garda escort from Letterkenny to Moville leading the way, and to witness everyone paying their respects to John, Tomás and Amelia; they would have been so proud. My heart was aching and still is from the events of that fateful night, but the outpouring of love shown to me as the roads were lined with people stopping to pay their respects in every town and village along the route, helped me bring my family to our home in Ballynally. 

To our hometown of Moville, I was humbled, proud and overcome with how everyone stood together in their grief to support me and how as a community you attended me in my darkest moment and carried me along the way. The ensuing two days of the wake followed by the funeral on Monday August 24th, family, friends and the wider community all rallied together to ensure everything went accordingly. The funeral service was heart-breaking, poignant and a true wonderful celebration of their lives, whereby we got to say our goodbyes and acknowledge how much they meant to all of us, and how their passing has left such a void in all our lives, most of all mine.  

To Liam Collins Funeral Directors and  Fr Pat O Hagan, a sincere word of gratitude for all your help in facilitating and enabling this.


To everyone who assisted me with re-opening the garden centre temporarily, I will be forever grateful. John’s love for myself and our children was apparent to all, as family was everything to him, and then his love of nature, his expert knowledge in transforming people’s ideas and visions into gardening masterpieces was evident in all the gardens around Inishowen. To reopen his business was very important to me, and that would not have been possible without the help of so many that gave of their own free time, so a special word of thanks to all of you. To everyone who came to the garden centre in the weeks up until we closed on October 23rd , and supported us, I am very grateful. It is heartening to think that John, Tomás and Amelia’s legacy will live on in your gardens for many years to come.

In the three months that has passed, not a minute goes by where I don’t think of my darling John and my adorable children Tomás and Amelia, and how lost, broken-hearted and sad I am. The support and love shown to me has been phenomenal, and I have no doubt it is the thoughts, prayers and well wishes of everyone that helps carry  me each and every day. The cards, gifts, letters, messages and assistance that I have received has touched my broken heart and I am humbled at the outpouring of love from people near and far. The fact that complete strangers took the time to put pen to paper and write me a few lines or send a Mass bouquet was very much appreciated and insightful. 

In these crazy uncertain times we’re currently living in, where there is a lot of fear, turmoil and anxiety, I am very grateful to know there is still an abundance of compassion, love, support, solidarity and beauty in humanity out there. 

In addition,  the generosity of everyone who donated (in lieu of family flowers at the funeral and the ensuing  four  weeks at the garden centre) means that a charity very close to my heart (Laura Lynn, Ireland’s Children’s Hospice) and the phenomenal work that they do, will now benefit. I know my three angels would be so immensely proud of that. To know that there will be families who will benefit as a direct result of your kindness and support in the face of my tragedy, helps with my healing. Over €5,000  was donated to Laura Lynn in memory of John, Tomás and Amelia, so. once again, thank you. 

I know that I am not alone in grief and many others are likewise left bereft and broken this year. I pray that they too will receive the support and love that has come my way.  

As I have learned in the cruellest of fashions, it is vitally important to cherish every moment and I will echo that sentiment to you all in closing out this letter of thanks … Please hug and kiss your loved ones and tell them how much they mean to you. I was so lucky to have been loved by John, Tomas and Amelia. I am deeply proud and privileged to have been a mother and wife. It is their love that will keep me going in the days, weeks, months and years ahead. I tell them I love them each and every day and I always will. Equally so, I will never lose hope, I will take it a day at a time, sometimes an hour at a time and I will keep going for them like I know they’d want me to … I will cherish the wonderful memories we created and I will try to live every day for my beloved family.

With Love and  Gratitude,

Geraldine Mullan.