Riverchapel parish priest Fr Tom Dalton among survivors
Parishioners in Courtown Harbour Riverchapel reacted with shock on Saturday on learning that their local parish priest Fr Tom Dalton was among those affected by the devastating earthquake in Nepal.
Ballygarrett parish priest Fr Jim Butler, who is deputising for Fr Dalton while he is away, said that those attending Saturday's vigil mass weren't aware that their local priest was caught up in the emergency, and were very relieved to hear that he and his travelling companions were safe and well.
'He made contact with home on Saturday,' said Fr Butler. 'They were very lucky. Buildings were collapsing around them.' Prayers were said at Star of the Sea Church in Riverchapel for their safe return, and for all those killed or affected by the disaster.
Ordained in 1994, Fr Dalton is a Ramsgrange native who previously served in Galbally, Wexford, and Rathangan, before taking up the role of parish priest in Riverchapel in 2012.
Immediately after the disaster, he told his sister Joan that the group were 'very lucky' to escape injury. His mother Frances, who lives in Arthurstown, told the Sunday Independent: 'He told Joan: "Don't tell Mum", but I had already heard the reports about the earthquake on the radio. He said they were now trying to get a flight home but all the airports have been closed because of the earthquake.'
Fr Dalton is a crew member on Courtown RNLI lifeboat. Operations Manager Sam Kennedy said that Tom has been in touch with his fellow crew members to tell them that he and his companions are okay.
'We're very grateful that they're all okay,' he said. 'We were very concerned when we heard about the earthquake, knowing that was where he was going. They're very lucky to have escaped with their lives.'
In messages home, Fr Dalton said the aftershocks are nearly as strong as the earthquake, and are 'not pleasant'. The reality of the seriousness of the quake has begun to sink in.
'We're still all good and all safe,' he said. They've been promised flights on Wednesday if the airport can manage to remain open amid the aftershocks. The other option is an 18 hour drive to Bangladesh. For now, the Department of Foreign Affairs has advised them to stay where they are until they go to the airport.