TEENAGE bandsmen and women who stopped to help soldiers caught in the IRA’s Ballygawley bomb in 1988 still suffer serious emotional scars today, it has been revealed.
The IRA killed eight solders from the Light Infantry Regiment in a landmine attack along the Ballygawley to Omagh road 25 years ago on August 20.
A memorial service was held at the scene on Sunday past, during which 12 wreaths were laid. The soldiers, in their teens or twenties, were in an unmarked bus returning to their Omagh base after a holiday.
Gordon Burnside was a member of the Omagh Protestant Boys band which happened upon the scene, along with members of Tullyally band.
“It still lives with me today,” he said. “At first some of us thought it was a car accident but I knew right away it was a bomb – there was a crater.
“We had young girls and boys from our bands acting like men and women that night. T-shirts and shirts were ripped up to create bandages.
“They put their band jackets over the dead and injured. All our uniforms were ruined with blood, but it didn’t matter.
“There was carnage – people were lying dead all around. It was horrific.
“All the young people involved did a fabulous job. But they never got the recognition they deserved.
“I still talk to them today and many of them say they cannot go down that road even now. When I go past a nervous feeling goes all over me.
“The bus was upended in the crater and they lifted it up and crawled in underneath to pull out bodies.”
Mr Burnside was the only person there who was first aid trained, which he had acquired through the Territorial Army.
“I made sure that everybody who was injured was with somebody else. From my training I knew that if somebody was injured they could drift off and die from shock if someone did not keep talking to them.”