The heroic Donegal soldiers who rescued a trapped family from their car after it went off the road and flipped onto its roof said they were simply “in the right place at the right time.”
Modest soldiers Stephen Healy, David Leech, Lee McFadden and Conor Doherty were all playing down their part in the rescue last night.
The lads, who are all based at Finner Camp, were returning from work when the drama unfolded on the outskirts of Ballybofey.
The car on front of them suddenly went out of control and crashed into a field flipping onto its roof.
The mother-of-three who was a front seat passenger in the stricken car told how she thought she was going after becoming trapped inside the car.
Laura Faulkner, her husband Neil and the couple’s three children, Mia (3 months), Alyssa (18 months) and Amber, 4 years, were traveling back after a night away at the Gap Lodge in Barnesmore to celebrate Neil’s birthday.
But at around 9.30am on Sunday morning last, disaster struck when their car veered violently off the road and into a field.
The terrified family could not get out of the car after its doors became embedded between an embankment and a barbed wire-fence on the outskirts of the town of Ballybofey.
Laura revealed “One minute we were traveling along and the next minute the car went out of control. Neil pulled out of the way of oncoming traffic and then he steered left and we ended up upside down in the field.”
Laura said she had visions that the car was going to explode into flames.
“I managed to climb into the back to help the children who were screaming with fear.
“I honestly thought “I am going to die, I am going to die.” I didn’t know what was going to happen as we lay there. I thought the engine could explode at any minute and we would be all killed,” she said.
However just seconds later as they lay helpless and with their children screaming in the car, help arrived.
The soldiers calmly parked their own car and set about rushed to the stricken family’s aid.
Last night the four soldiers said they only did what anybody would have done.
David Leech said “We were just in the right place at the right time – it’s as simply as that. We were just happy we could help.”
His colleague Stephen Healy, who has completed a Military First Responder’s Course, said things went very smoothly.
“As soldiers we are trained for such situations and it all went very smoothly.
“We kept talking to eachother and talking with the family. They were frightened but we tried to put them at their ease.
“It wasn’t to long before we had them out and thankfully there was no real injuries apart from the shock of it all,” said Stephen.
David it was lucky in many ways that they witnessed the Faulkner’s car going off the road and into the field.
“It was early in the morning and you could not have told from driving on the road if there were people inside.
“Very often drivers will pass by an abandoned car in a field thinking people have got out and simply left it there.
“In a way it’s a lesson to us al that you should check abandoned cars because you never know when they have left the road,” he said.
Once the soldiers managed to rescue the family, who hail from Co Antrim from the car, the emergency services including two ambulances and Gardai arrived on the scene.
The family were taken to Letterkenny General Hospital for check-ups but were released later that night.
Laura said she simply cannot thank the soldiers enough.
“All I can say is thank you. I can never put into words how much they did for us and how grateful we are.
“They went above and beyond the call of duty. Even after they rescued us from being trapped in the car, they went back and got the children’s things out of the car for us.
“They are a credit to their families and to the Irish Army,” she said.
Laura added that her family are now more or less over their trauma and their eventful stay in Co Donegal.
“It was Neil’s birthday present going away with the family for the night. I Don’t think we’ll regret it too quickly.
“The younger girls have gotten over it already. But Amber, who is four, has been playing with toy cars and turning them upside down.
“It’s probably stuck in her mind but she’ll get over it. The main thing is that none of us were physically hurt,” she said.