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Una Bowden and her daughters Ciara, 14, and Saoirse, nine, who died in a road accident in Mayo, were on their way home after visiting family

Una Carlin Bowden (47) and her daughters Ciara (14) and Saoirse (9) died instantly when their vehicle collided with a tanker on the N17 outside Claremorris, Co Mayo.

The family lived in Gortachalla, Moycullen, County Galway for several years and the girls attended local school.

Ciara was a first year student at Salerno Secondary School in Galway city. Saoirse was in Year 3 at Scoil Naomh Bride at Tullykyne National School in Moycullen.

Ms Carlin Bowden’s husband, David Bowden, who works as a senior project manager for the United Nations, was due to arrive back in Ireland last night.

It took gardaí many hours to contact Mr Bowden, who was working on a major humanitarian project in Ethiopia.

Ms Carlin Bowden was originally from the Raphoe area of ​​County Donegal.

It is understood the family had just returned from visiting their father John Carlin in Donegal when the road accident occurred.

It is believed that the Bowdens had lived in Africa for many years before returning to Ireland and settling in Moycullen with their two daughters.

Mr Bowden continued his work at the United Nations but regularly traveled home to Moycullen. He should have returned home tomorrow.

Last night, Scoil Naomh Bride principal Brian MacLochlainn said the entire school community was “completely devastated and heartbroken” by the tragedy.

“We here at Scoil Naomh Bríde, Tullykyne, are deeply saddened by the loss of three wonderful members of our school community,” he said. “Saoirse was a third grade student and an incredibly fun-loving, talented young girl with infectious enthusiasm and wit who had a positive influence on everyone she met.

“She was such an incredibly popular figure in our small school community and we are completely devastated by her loss.

“Ciara didn’t go to school here but we have come to know her over the years as the wonderfully kind, caring older sister and daughter that she was

“Una was a brilliant mother. She took wonderful care of her family and was an excellent support to the school in every way.

“Today our entire community in Tullykyne and the wider Moycullen area is completely devastated and heartbroken at the loss of three great people.

“While we seek to offer whatever support we can, our thoughts are now with David and the entire Bowden family at this unimaginably difficult time.”

Councilor Noel Thomas, who lived near the Bowden family in Moycullen, said the news had devastated the community.

“Everyone is shocked and devastated. “I think it’s the most tragic and terrible news this community has faced in as long as I can remember,” he said.

“It is simply unimaginable that two children would lose their lives along with their mother and that their poor father would come home and have to face this nightmare.

“I truly cannot imagine the pain this man feels. There is no doubt there is no more supportive community than Moycullen.

“And I am sure that all the friends they have made here will come together and do everything they can to help the poor family in this terrible time.”

A local woman described Mrs Carlin Bowden as “beautiful and gentle”.

“She seemed like one of those mothers who just wanted to make life fun and fulfilling for her daughters,” she said.

“Every mother is devoted, but she really seemed to live for her girls. We were all just broken in shock.

“How something so terrible could happen makes you doubt this world. I wish these beautiful girls and their mom the warm, loving embrace of heaven tonight.”

The collision happened just after 2pm on Tuesday on a straight stretch of the N17 outside Claremorris and near Knock.

It is not known what caused the accident, but initial investigations suggest that Ms Carlin Bowden lost control and her car veered into the path of an oncoming tanker truck.

It is believed that her vehicle was pulling a trailer and this may have destabilized it.

A van driver driving directly behind the family managed to swerve out of the way and crashed into a ditch, but was uninjured.

Both the van and truck drivers were treated at the scene for shock and taken to Mayo University Hospital for assessment.

Post-mortem examinations took place at Mayo University Hospital yesterday.

The stretch of road where the tragedy occurred is a notorious accident hot spot and has been the scene of numerous fatalities over the years.

The death of Mrs Carlin Bowden and her daughters brings the number of people killed on Irish roads this year to 54.

Compared to the same period last year, the number of traffic deaths has increased by 24 percent since January 1st.

Fourteen people have died on Irish roads this month alone, averaging one death almost every 48 hours.

There were 12 road deaths in Co Mayo last year, according to the Road Safety Authority (RSA).

There have been eight deaths in the county so far this year, including five in the Claremorris area.

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