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The Victims describe the Omagh Bomb
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This section takes the form of a chronological description of the bomb and its aftermath, made up entirely of descriptions by victims and witnesses. All these are exact transcriptions from television interviews and have not been modified in any way. Only the victims themselves can truly describe what happened:

Kevin Skelton describes the last moment he saw his wife alive,
when she and their 2 daughters entered SD Kells clothes shop.

Nobody thought there was going to be a bomb in Omagh - everybody thought it was a hoax. Wife, she headed across - plus Shauna and Tracey - headed into Kells. They'd got everything only a pair of shoes, a pair of brown shoes. I got to the top of the steps and said to myself: "Three women in a shop: I'll go for a walk somewhere else." So I turned and walked into the shop next door, Mr Gees.

Louise Scott, a waitress in Nicholl & Shiels, describes
the minutes before the bomb exploded.

I was just back from my lunch about ten minutes, and had walked straight past the car and everything. And two minutes before I was hanging out the window, 'cause a girl that I worked with was walking past the bottom. She was going out home and, you know, we were kind of chatting to her out the window. I mean, if it had went off then, I'd have been killed, I'd say, because... or a lot worse.

The bomb before it exploded [32kB]

Jolene Jamison, a young worker in Nicholl & Shiels, very close
to the bomb, describes the moment that the bomb exploded.

I was in the kitchen, and heard a big bang. Everything fell on me - the cupboards blew off the wall. The next thing I got blasted out into the street. There was smashed glass everywhere - bodies, children. People were inside-out.

Michelle Mimnagh describes the moment the bomb exploded.

I met my friend and we decided to go on down to the bus depot. And, as we were walking down there just past McElroy's shoe shop - we were right in the middle of the road - then the bomb went off.

I was thrown to the ground, so I was, and obviously I couldn't run or nothing and I saw my leg and all. Well I just thought: I'll never be able to walk again, you know. And then you just have to wait for somebody to come. So I sat there, and there was a lot of screaming around, but I didn't - I must have been in shock - 'cause I didn't scream or nothing. I just sat and waited.

Louise Scott continues her recollection of the moment of the bomb explosion.

First of all, there was like this massive bang, which I'll... and then you just heard, you know, glass and roofs falling and, you know, just... and then there was silence for a while. And then it was like just screaming and shouting and complete mayhem. It was... quite scary.

The aftermath [13kB]

A policeman looking for the bomb at the courthouse heard the
massive bomb explode at the opposite end of the town centre.

There was smoke coming from the brow of the hill and we stopped in our tracks for what seemed like an eternity and then we just ran towards it. When we reached the brow of the hill there were people everywhere, some with blood, others without a scratch. Then there were just bodies everywhere, it was like a war zone, a killing field. I was numbed by the whole thing. I saw a young boy covered in blood and I knelt beside him. I hadn't a clue what to do. There was blood pouring out of him and his eyes just stared right through you. I just stopped and stared at some of the sights around me, I couldn't take it in. There was another boy screaming "Mummy, mummy". I just picked him up and sat him on the pavement. People were trying to pull you to help others. I didn't know what to do. People were just looking for you to do something. I never felt so alone and so helpless.

Kevin Skelton describes how he looked for his wife in the rubble.

I ran into the front of Kells - what was left of it - and I went in through where the window would have been, and I found the wife lying face down in the rubble. Now the clothes was blew off her, and the first thing I reached for was her arm, and I tried for her pulse - there was no life. I knew she was dead.

And then I couldn't get...there was no sign of Shauna or Tracey, and I knew they were in the shop with her, and I started lifting lumps of timber and...everything was carnage. But there was still no sign of Shauna, and I thought she was dead. I thought she was under the rubble - thought she was buried under her mother.

I found Tracey, my second daughter, on her knees beside her mammy, trying her pulse. Like a woman who went to Omagh twice a year to do shopping, about the only two days she went was to get the uniforms and Christmas.

Dorothy Boyle witnessed the immediate aftermath.

There were limbs lying about that had been blown off people. Everyone was running round, trying to help people. There was a girl in a wheelchair screaming for help, who was in a bad way. There were people with cuts on their heads, bleeding. One young boy had half of his leg completely blown off. He didn't cry or anything. He was just in a complete state of shock.

The aftermath [13kB]

A local shop owner describes the scene on Market Street.

It was horrible, so much blood and flesh, and glass sticking out of people. I saw a group of four kids and I heard them speaking a foreign language, Spanish, and I thought, in the confusion, they needed more help than anyone else. Two of them were very badly injured, with glass in their heads, bellies, arms and necks. Blood was dripping from them. ...One of the girls was very badly hurt, bleeding from her ears and mouth. She was absolutely covered with glass and kept crying that she wanted to die, and all of them were half deaf from the blast. My wife and I brought them back to the shop, where we grabbed bowls of water and washed the blood off their bodies. We realised we couldn't pull out all the glass, so we took them to the hospital.

John King, a local carpenter, was passing nearby
and ran to help when he heard the explosion.

The first thing I noticed was what I suppose was a shop dummy lying in the middle of the street, so I knew then there was people injured, 'cause I could see everybody coming running with blood and one thing or another. After I passed the first shop dummy that I saw lying in the street, out of one of the clothes shops, the next thing I saw in the street, again, was what I thought was another shop dummy. But unfortunately that wasn't. That was either a man or a woman - I've no idea what it was - but it was just a body. And there were neither legs or arms or anything to be seen on it. It was a sight that I'll not forget anyway, that's for sure.

And that was only one - there was a lot of other sights lying on that street, that really yet is still hard to describe. How anybody could do that to innocent people, I have no idea.

The aftermath [14kB]

Paddy McGowan, a local government councillor,
was in an adjoining street and rushed to help.

There were bodies strewn all over the street. It was like a battlefield of burning flesh and dead bodies, with a burst water main spraying everywhere. I helped lift six bodies out, and did all I could for some of the injured. People - men, women and children - were lying on the road, dazed and bleeding. People were groaning, children were crying and there was an overwhelming smell of burning flesh.

Another witness observed the scene on Market Street.

There was an awful lot of water because there was burst water mains. There were people lying dead and the water was just gushing over the top of them. The other striking thing was there was so much blood. There was blood literally everywhere an awful lot of blood on the footpath and on the road. A lot of the policemen were splattered from head to toe in blood - and I really mean that. They were putting people who were either dead, badly maimed or injured into sheets or anything they could find and just sort of dragging them down to the bottom end of the town. They were waiting for any available ambulance or car to put the people into.

John King continues to recollect his experience

To see that body lying in the street, with smoke sort of rising from it, and the smell on the street. That's three things that won't leave me was the smell, the sights and the sounds. And the screams of the people. There was people there squealing in agony. Unfortunately there was a burst water main as well on the footpath, and there were people actually, or big pieces of people - bodies - being washed down that footpath, which is something that you never forget. They were just basically piling up at the corner where the gully was, and bits and pieces of legs, arms, whatever, was floating down that street.

The Aftermath [15kB]

A passing bus driver used his bus to bring the injured to
hospital. A local woman describes the scene on board.

There were limbs hanging off, bodies being carried on doors, everything was chaotic. Then just as the bus was ready to leave, the door opened and someone handed a severed arm in. I think that was just too much for the driver. I think he cried all the way to the hospital.

The driver of the bus describes the one-mile journey to the hospital

It was like a scene from hell. I wasn't able to drive fast because people were screaming in pain. As we went over the ramps at the hospital I could hear the roars of pain.

A volunteer nurse describes the scene in Tyrone County Hospital, Omagh's main hospital.

Nothing could have prepared me for what I saw. People were lying on the floor with limbs missing and there was blood all over the place. People were crying for help and looking for something to kill the pain. Other people were crying out looking for relatives. You could not really be trained for what you had seen unless you were trained in Vietnam or somewhere like that.

Dr Dominic Pinto was the first surgeon to arrive at the hospital

When I came to the front of the hospital, it was absolutely quiet. What greeted me when I got into the main corridor was sheer pandemonium. This was not a major incident, but a major disaster of battlefield proportions. There were people lying in corridors of the accident and emergency department, overflowing into the radiology department. Some 240 injured people arrived within the first 45 minutes.

"Richard", a local architect, went to the hospital to find his
daughters who had been in town with their grandmother.

We ran from here to the hospital and we went in, and it was just room after room after room of children. Some were in wheelchairs, bandaged. Others were lying on stretchers. Others were just simply huddled in the corner...no parents. God only knows what happened to them.

We worked our way through the crowd, and at the bottom were our two children with their friend and my mother. [Daughter] was remarkably calm, and lacerations... the lacerations were confined really to her hairline. From what we gathered, she was obviously very distressed - she bled quite profusely.

Another nurse attempted to comfort a man at the hospital

He was crouched down against the wall with his head in his hands. He told me that his wife was dead and his children were missing. I covered him up with a sheet and put my arms around him, but there was nothing else I could do. There was also a young boy of about 11 or 12, strapped into a stretcher. His hair was burnt and standing on end, and he was deathly white. He kept staring at me with huge frightened eyes. That image will haunt me for ever.

Many of the victims were lifted by helicopter to other hospitals in Northern
Ireland. One nurse describes bringing a victim to the makeshift heli-pad.

I stayed in ward five with a local lady, doing what I could until she was air-lifted to Altnagelvin Hospital in Derry for further treatment. Her young son was already there with severe leg injuries. As we made our way outside in the cold to the air-pad, the members of the army and the police were lined up. The spotlights shone for us. For a moment I thought this is unreal, it was like a scene from a movie. But the agony of pain, etched on the victim's face as we carefully lifted her from the trolley on to the aircraft, made it a reality.

At the end of the day, the local Sub Divisional Commander
of the police spoke about the experience of his officers:

What chance have any of us got when we are told the bomb is at a courthouse, when the actual target is the ordinary townspeople in a busy shopping area hundreds of yards away? There can be no ifs or buts' about this: there are no so called 'legitimate targets', there can be no excuse whatever for putting the lives of hundreds of people at risk. Such people serve no cause but that of murder and mayhem. ...With the help of the decent people of Northern Ireland, we will do everything in our power to ensure those responsible for this outrage are brought to justice.

A few days later, Gwen Hall wrote an open
letter to the 'Real' IRA from her hospital bed.

To be bold lads who ripped the heart out of Omagh:

I will probably never know who you are - but you know.

I'll tell you who I am. My name is Gwen. I am the mother of Alastair who is the bravest person I know. We and all the other victims of your ambush last Saturday would like to know 'why?'. I went to Hell and back lying injured in the debris and water and blood not knowing if my 12 year old son was alive or dead. By God's grace he survived and that is why I am lying here able to write. I wish you could have heard that child crying inconsolably yesterday as he struggled with the pain from his severed limb. That was what ripped at my heart. However, we are two of the lucky ones, for which I thank God. We do have a future.

You may have broken the bodies of the people of Omagh, but you can never break their spirit.The last line of one of my favourite songs is - "God is watching us...from a distance." You can run but you cannot hide.

On behalf of the people of Omagh - the bereaved, injured and anyone else affected.

Nicholl and Shiels corner [34kB]

A week after the bomb, "Richard" was allowed into
one of the shops to assess the structural integrity.

At the end of the first week, I actually was allowed access to one part of the building, by the police. It was under very special circumstances because the forensic had not finished their work. It was quite late at night, and it was into the Nicholl & Shiels corner. Basically it was to assess the restaurant area above. There were some very obvious structural cracks. And that, again, is a memory that will always be with me as we walked through the building... the rain was coming through the roof. We scanned the torch - it was a very, very eerie feeling. Maybe 20 to 30 tables with lunches, cups of coffee - exactly the way they had been when the bomb went off. And that particular building was packed at that stage.

And then you felt a stickiness on your feet, and as I turned the torch down I realised I was walking on blood the whole way along the building. So you can only imagine what it must have been like at the time for the people in there.

Kevin Skelton reflects on the massacre

All we want is that my youngsters, and everybody else's youngsters - it doesn't matter whether they're Catholic, Protestant, Hindu or whatever religion they are - that they can go to school, come home, and their fathers and mothers are there and they're not afraid that every time they walk down the street, if someone drops a bin lid, that it's a bomb.

When you close the bedroom door, you're there on your own. For people to stand up and say they set a bomb in Omagh to achieve a United Ireland - that's pathetic. It achieved nothing, it never will achieve nothing, it's achieved nothing this 30 years only caused people misery and torture. And if youngsters like mine, and hundreds maybe thousands of youngsters throughout the north of Ireland without either father - in some cases without either father or mother, but in my case they've left them without their mother. A young woman of 39 years of age that had everything to live for.

It's... I never was involved in politics of any description, and to the honest truth, I hate the politicians in the north of Ireland. There's a certain element of politicians in the north of Ireland, every time they open their big gab some family suffers.

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