'We know exactly what those people are going through. We have to live with the pain of this every day, as indeed do all of the families...We're learning to cope and hoping it will get easier. And that would be my message to the people in Donegal: take it day by day, one day at a time, and pray to God it will get easier."
Thomas Byrne speaks with immense pride, and profound sadness, when he discusses his beloved daughter Sarah.
Along with four friends, she was returning from a shopping trip to Sligo last November when their blue Peugeot 206 car collided with a truck on the N17 between Ballindine and Milltown on the Galway-Mayo border.
All five were students at NUI Galway and keen Irish-language enthusiasts who were frequently seen on campus chatting among themselves as gaeilge.
Sarah was just 20 years of age when she died at the notorious accident blackspot, known locally as Coyne's corner.
Three of her college pals – Marie Conneely from Baile na hAbhann, Connemara; Teresa Molloy (19) of Leitir Mór, Connemara; and Sorcha Rose McLoughlin (19) from Mulgannon in Co Wexford also died instantly in the crash.
A fifth girl, Michelle O'Donnell from the Aran islands, is still in a critical condition at Galway University Hospital. She had been driving at the time of the collision.
"What happened in Donegal brought the whole thing back to us again. Another carnage on the roads. My heart goes out to all these families," Thomas Byrne says, trying hard to hide his distress. "Sarah loved life, she loved her life in college, her Galway life. She had two part-time jobs, she was a great worker and loved her style too."
But it does not take last week's crash in Donegal to bring the painful memories flooding back. Everywhere he goes he is reminded of what he and his family have lost.
This month's inquest at Headford courthouse, where the girls' final moments were spelled out in forensic detail, was a particularly traumatic time for all of the families involved.
"We have to live with the pain of this every day, as indeed do all of the families. We're just trying to cope every day," he explains. "Our concern would be that the road they were on would be made safe. We wouldn't want any other families to go through what we've been through. That stretch is treacherous. We wouldn't want this to happen to any other family."
When death comes to a local road, it lingers long after the metal remains of the vehicles involved have been taken away.
Septuagenarian farmer John Coyne has direct experience of what it feels like. He was sitting in his house, which is located on the bend itself, on that wet and windy night last November when he heard a loud bang outside. He knew immediately that something serious had occurred. The bend is named after his family, and he has lived there all his life.
"There have been hundreds of crashes here over the years. I've a lifetime of dealing with them," he says. "I was predicting someone else was going to get killed, there were so many incidents."
But nothing could have prepared him for the scene which confronted him that night.
"I often think about it. I knew as soon as I heard the bang that it was a bad one," he says. "There was a truck and a car in the middle of the road. Another car had pulled up and the driver was trying to help. It was dark, wet and windy. I prised open the front door, and I saw the driver. She was still alive, and was just gasping for air. I knew the other girl in the front seat was gone. I ran inside to my house to phone the gardaí, and didn't look in the back seat. There were three of them in there. Sometimes I thank God that I didn't look back."
Until that point, although each was upsetting, he could cope well enough when the many previous accidents – including one fatality last August – occurred outside his home.
"This was different, it was traumatic for all of the community," he says. "Your heart would go out to those families when you meet them... The crash in Donegal does bring it all back to you. I was looking at the pictures of those seven young men in the papers, and it was like the picture of those five young girls I have in my house which I look at every day."
A photo of the five girls, all smiling, also adorns a makeshift memorial which John and other neighbours erected at the scene recently.
They have planted flowers in front of it, and friends and family members of the dead girls have left flowers, candles and messages there. Nearby, a number of single roses are tied to a post.
A stranger to them before last November's crash, John Coyne now maintains regular contact with the girls' families.
Sometimes they come to visit the spot where their daughters departed this earth, just to spend some time there. Afterwards, John invites them into his house for a cup of tea and a chat. It is the decent thing to do.
"We do go up to the accident site. I found it hard to go up there, particularly the first time," Thomas Byrne explains. "But when you see the flowers and messages, and what John has done, you see how good people are and it is a great comfort. We have huge support from our family, neighbours, friends. We also meet up with the other families all of the time which is a real support. And all Sarah's friends come to visit us.
"Only for the support we're getting from family, friends and neighbours, they have just been fantastic, I just don't know what we would have done."
In Ballindine itself, locals were also anxious to show the families that although the girls were not from the town, they would not be forgotten.
So they got together and decided to hold a memorial mass, with a tea and sandwiches reception afterwards. They were delighted when most of the families said they could make the occasion, held last December.
Local parish priest Fr Martin O'Connor estimates that around 150 people came to the mass and reception, or almost one in three people in the parish.
"I think the fact that there was a big crowd there meant a lot to them. This was a community of strangers, but it showed them that the girls are on our minds still. While we were strangers, the other thing is it could have been any of our own that died in that crash. Our youngsters are on that road, coming to and fro all the time."
There may be differences between the circumstances of last week's tragedy in Donegal and the previous crash in which the four girls died. But the end result – young people dead too soon – is the same. Both crashes have also prompted renewed calls for more to be done to prevent such loss of life recurring.
In Donegal, these have so far centred around the need to improve road safety in the area, with the local coroner Dr John Madden suggesting that more resources be allocated to help police the roads there.
By comparison, much of the focus at the Galway-Mayo border has been on the need for the stretch of road near Coyne's corner to be upgraded.
This would mean that people who are unaware of the dangers which it holds no longer put their lives at risk when travelling along it.
But John Coyne says there has been no sign that the authorities intend to upgrade the road since the girls died. After this month's inquest, Sorcha Rose's parents Tom and Rose publicly pleaded for this to happen.
As if on cue, workmen appeared at Coyne's corner last week, placing orange cones along the way and introducing a "stop/ go" system while they worked.
They also appeared to be constructing a more permanent speed-activated flashing warning sign to replace the one which has been there up until now.
John Coyne says officials from the NRA have visited the site on several occasions, and even called into him to discuss the safety issues around it.
But he adds that the previous temporary signs warning motorists to slow down were not put up until January – more than a month after the girls died – and when the busy Christmas season had passed.
"They need to alter the road for a start, fix the camber [or slope] of the road," he believes. "I think they are waiting for the new bypass to be built, but sure that could take years and years to open. And even then people will still use this road, and they won't just be locals.
"There were four crashes here in the past five weeks alone... and around 400 to 500 metres down the road there is another bend [known as Hernon's corner] where there is an accident nearly every day."
Along the same 8km stretch of the N17 between Ballindine and Milltown on a wet summer's afternoon last week, impatient motorists were openly tailgating cars in front of them before overtaking at high speed.
One man driving a van carrying a trailer was even to be seen overtaking on the N17 at a speed well in excess of the already generous 100kph speed limit.
Motorists continue to take Coyne's corner at speed too. "Cars were definitely driving slower for a few months after the crash. Everybody knew about it," Coyne says. "But now they're flying again," his 20-year-old neighbour Brendan Donnelly interjects.
Donnelly – a quiet young man who also witnessed first hand the devastation of the crash scene last November – believes that some people will never learn.
"The warning signs will only work for a while; people get used to them," he says. "People probably would have slowed down for a while after the crash. But it is like anything – then something else comes up and it is forgotten about."
The Inishowen peninsula was convulsed with grief last week, as a hastily arranged rota of funerals for the eight victims from last Sunday night's two-car crash took place. At Tuesday's funeral mass for one of the victims, 21-year-old Mark McLaughlin, Fr Neil McGoldrick told mourners the men's deaths had sent a "shockwave" through the close community.
"No words can adequately describe that harsh reality that left Mark's family and so many other people feeling stunned and helpless," he said. "Someone described it as a tsunami rolling across Inishowen overwhelming us all."
They are sadly familiar sentiments, which continue to find resonance elsewhere.