By Andrew Bushe
DUBLIN — Four soldiers served with the UN force in Lebanon were killed and five others injured when a minibus in which they were riding skidded on an oil slick and went out of control just south of Beirut on Monday.
An army spokesman said they were in a minibus in a convoy of six vehicles traveling from the Irish Battalion HQ in Tibnin toward Beirut when the accident happened at Damur, about 10 kilometers south of the city.
About 18 soldiers in the convoy were going on two weeks’ vacation provided for during their six-month tour of duty.
The dead soldiers were identified as Privates Declan Deere and John Murphy, both 21 and from Athy, Co. Kildare; Matthew Lawlor, 23, from Nurney, Co. Kildare, and Brendan Fitzpatrick, 19, from Portlaoise. All four were single.
The soldiers were in the same platoon in the 3rd Infantry Battalion stationed in the Curragh and were part of the 650-strong 86th Battalion, which has been in Lebanon with the multi-national UNIFIL force since October.
Never miss an issue of The Irish Echo
Subscribe to one of our great value packages.
Three of the soldiers died at the scene, a fourth died on his way to hospital.
Two of the injured, Cpl. Andrew O’Connor of Thurles, Co. Tipperary, and Gunner Aidan Doyle of Finglas, Dublin, were discharged after treatment.
Three others, who were detained in Hamoud Hospital, Sidon, are Trooper John Keohane, from Dungarvan, Co. Waterford, and Sgt. Celsus Whyte of Clonmel, Co. Tipperary. Private Edward O’Neill of Kildare town is in the Sacre Coeur Hospital, Beirut.
President Mary McAleese sent messages of condolence to the families of those who died, as did Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. David Stapleton, Taoiseach Bertie Ahern and Defense Minister Michael Smith.
A spokesman said the army were "deeply shocked" by the biggest loss of life in a single day in the Lebanon since the army began peace-keeping duties there 22 years ago.