A teacher and mother-of-two has been hailed a hero after she sacrificed her own life to save that of a six-year-old girl.
Tributes have poured in for Dawn Croke, who was in her early 30s, and taught in Rosses Community School in Co Donegal alongside her father Tony. The tragedy occurred on Thursday night, when Ms Croke was struck by a white 4×4 in the grounds of a primary school.
She was with her partner’s six-year-old daughter when the vehicle, which had been parked a short distance away, moved towards them.
It is not known what caused the vehicle to move, but it is being treated as a tragic accident. Ms Croke pushed the little girl out of the way, and bore the full impact of the collision. The girl was seriously injured, and has been treated in hospital.
Ms Croke was well known in the county as a former Mary from Dungloe. Local Fianna Fáil TD Pat ‘The Cope’ Gallagher – who knew Ms Croke personally – hailed her as an “exceptionally gifted individual with a massive personality and warmth that radiated from her on each occasion you met her”.
The Donegal TD said she had visited Dáil Éireann only last month, with her class from the school.
“She was dearly loved by her students and her work colleagues, all of whom are devastated,” he said.
It’s understood Ms Croke died instantly when she was hit by a 4×4 vehicle in the grounds of St Crona’s National School, in Dungloe, at 6.30pm on Thursday.
Ms Croke had been in the grounds of the school with her partner Paddy McHugh’s six-year-old daughter.
Tragedy struck, however, when a white Ford Ranger, that had been parked nearby travelled in the direction of Ms Croke and the young girl, hitting Ms Croke after she pushed the little girl out of the way.
The child suffered a broken pelvis and a foot injury, but is expected to make a full recovery.
Forensic investigators were at the scene of the tragedy at first light yesterday.
The investigation will centre on what caused the Ford Ranger to travel forward and hit Ms Croke and the young girl.
Ms Croke was from a popular local family and steeped in the local community in Dungloe and the local music scene.
She is mother to young sons Jason and Calum. Rosses Community School remained closed yesterday as a mark of respect to the grief-stricken family of Ms Croke.
Members of the local Mary From Dungloe organisation – an Irish music festival – last night paid tribute to Ms Croke, the 2008 Dungloe Mary.
A spokesperson said: “We are asking committee members and Marys past and present to join us for a guard of honour at Dawn’s funeral.”
The school issued a statement offering their support to Ms Croke’s family, including her partner Patrick and two sons.
It says: “Our school community wishes to offer our sincerest condolences on the tragic death of our colleague and friend, Ms Dawn Croke.
“We offer our condolences to her father and staff member Tony Croke, his wife Anne, our student Emily, past pupils Aaron, Ethan and Adam, her partner Patrick, and her sons Jason and Calum.”
Pat ‘The Cope’ Gallagher also told that when Ms Croke and her class visited Dáil Éireann last month, she then brought them to meet Brother Kevin Crowley at his centre for the homeless. The class presented him with a cheque for €1,000.
Brother Kevin is “greatly saddened” by the news of her death, Mr Gallagher said.
Her funeral will be held on Monday at 11am in St Crona’s Church, Dungloe, with burial afterwards in Maghery cemetery.
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