Soldier who survived IRA attack thanks first responders as he returns to scene

Dave Hardy was on a bus bombed at Ballygawley in 1988, killing eight servicemen.

Ballygawley memorial
Ballygawley memorial

A soldier badly injured in an IRA bus attack has paid tribute to those who helped him, as he revisited the scene for the first time.

Eight servicemen were killed in the Ballygawley bombing in Co Tyrone in 1988.

Members of the Light Infantry Regiment, from England, were returning to a base near Omagh after a short holiday.

Dave Hardy was among the 28 injured, and he suffered broken bones and a brain injury.

On the eve of Remembrance Sunday, a special gathering was held in Omagh.

Mr Hardy said: “I am asking questions and getting answers that I have never been able to get before, like how did I get to hospital.

“I am very happy that I was not alone.”

The IRA set off a 200-pound roadside Semtex bomb as the bus was travelling between Ballygawley and Omagh.

Members of the Omagh Protestant Boys Band returning from a parade were among the first at the scene and tried to resuscitate soldiers, who were lying on the road.

Mr Hardy, 53, from Durham, was trying to sleep on the bus and the first thing the then private remembers is lying on the road unable to get up, but no pain.

He added: “I heard crying, it was the horrible, stomach-wrenching cry of pain.”

He was in hospital in a coma for a month or more and underwent rehabilitation in Surrey before being medically discharged from the Army.

He said he had been suppressing emotion associated with the attack.

“It is a weird sensation, there is no emotion, I think it could be just a defence mechanism.”

Members of the public, including nearby residents and two flute bands who were travelling on the road, comforted the wounded until emergency services arrived.

Mr Hardy was taken to hospital in nearby Dungannon in one of the first ambulances.

He recalled seeing a bright light.

“Someone walked out and said everything is going to be okay.”

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