DUBLIN, Ireland -- A bus full of high school students collided with two cars northwest of Dublin on Monday and tipped over into a ditch, killing five teenage girls and injuring 50 people, police said.
The crash happened between the town of Navan and village of Kentstown at about 4 p.m. A police spokesman, chief superintendent Michael Finnegan, said 51 high school students were on the bus. The five girls who died were aged 13 to 16 and attended a Roman Catholic school in Navan, he said.
He said it wasn't clear what caused the accident, but heavy rain could have been a factor.
Three helicopters from the Irish Air Corps and 14 ambulances ferried the injured to hospitals in Dublin, Navan and Drogheda, a major town east of Navan.
At the Drogheda hospital, officials said they were treating 26 people, mostly students, six of whom were in critical condition.
"It is an appalling scene really," said the Rev. David O'Hanlon, a Catholic priest counseling families near the crash site.
"Naturally many families, many parents converged on the scene, because they were aware their children were traveling on the bus," said O'Hanlon, whose parish includes Kentstown, the home of some of the dead and injured.
One girl who survived the crash called her mother by cell phone while trapped inside the bus, O'Hanlon said. The girl's mother told him "her daughter ... was simply hysterical."
"The girl was unable even to describe where she was or what had happened," he said.
Firefighters provided first aid to lightly wounded people at a nearby house. A taxi carried blood supplies from a Dublin hospital to the scene and to Drogheda hospital.
Ireland has among the highest per capita road casualty rates in Western Europe. Before Monday's accident, 147 people had been killed by vehicles this year in the country of 4 million, up from 144 in the same period last year.
Monday's accident was the worst in Ireland since February 2004, when a Dublin bus ran onto a sidewalk and plowed into a crowd waiting to get on the bus, killing five people and wounding 20.