Local police have acknowledged the traffic chaos which ensued in Banbridge following a fatal collision involving the car carrying two elderly nuns and an unmarked police vehicle, just before 9.30am on Tuesday September 30.
The nuns, Sister Marie Duddy and Sister Frances Forde, died in the two-vehicle collision which occurred just past Sheepbridge on the A1 dual carraigeway.
Three policemen suffered minor injuries.
While motorists were sympathetic to the tragic circumstances, many felt the ‘hours and hours of delay’ were unnecessary and said diversions could have been better thought out.
The A1 dual carriageway from Banbridge to Newry was closed in both directions from the Outlet retail park junction at Banbridge to the Sheepbridge turn off at Newry for over 12 hours.
In a statement police said: “We understand many people were inconvenienced on their journeys today but we tried to ensure where possible that the inconveniences were kept to a minimum.
“To that end we would like to thank everyone for their patience today during the course of this investigation.
“Clearly our thoughts go out to the families and friends of all those involved in this tragic event.”
A spokesman for the police ombudsman’s office said an independent investigation was under way into the circumstances of the accident.
The nuns, who were members of the Sister of Mercy order based at Ballysillan House, Crumlin Road, Belfast, had been travelling in a silver Renault Clio to Dromantine College Retreat and Conference Centre on the Glen Road, Newry, when the crash happened.
Bishop Noel Treanor said: “Along with Bishop Anthony Farquhar and the clergy of the Diocese of Down and Connor, I would like to extend my deepest sympathy to the family and friends of Sr Frances Forde and Sr Marie Duddy.
“Over the years, these sisters have blessed the Church with ministries ranging from healthcare, education, spiritual guidance and cross community and inter-faith dialogue.
“I continue to remember in my prayers the PSNI officers who have been injured as a result of this terrible accident and their families, and pay tribute to the professionalism and care of the emergency services.”