A young teacher who was killed in a horrific crash involving a 4×4 near a school heroically saved the life of a six-year-old girl just seconds before she was hit.
Mum-of-two Dawn Croke, who was in her 30s, was declared dead at the scene, close to St Crona’s National School in Dungloe, Ireland.
She had been on the grounds with her partner Paddy McHugh and Mr McHugh’s six-year-old daughter on Thursday evening.
It is understood Dawn managed to push the child away from the jeep but took the brunt of the impact herself, the Irish Mirror reports.
Tragically, Dawn was killed instantly.
The six-year-old girl who was also hit by the vehicle was taken to University Hospital Letterkenny.
She is being treated for a broken pelvis and a foot injury but medics expect she will make a full recovery.
Friends and colleagues paid tribute to Dawn, who worked at Rosses Community School where her father is also a teacher.
She was also a former pageant contestant in Ireland’s popular Mary From Dungloe International Festival.
One woman paying tribute on Facebook wrote: “Heaven has surely gained the most stunning angel of all.”
Dawn took part in the Mary from Dungloe contest in 2008. The event centres on a pageant to find out which contestant has ‘the spirit of the festival’.
A spokesperson for the Mary from Dungloe committee said: “I would like to offer my sincere condolences to the family of the late Dawn Croke who sadly passed away today.
“Dawn was the Dungloe Mary in 2008, my thoughts and prayers are with her family and friends at this difficult time.
“We are asking committee members and Mary’s past and present to join us for a guard of honour at Dawn’s funeral.”
A statement by the school, which will remain closed on Monday, the day of her funeral, said: “Our school community wish 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 on the sad passing of our wonderful teacher and friend Ms Dawn Croke.
“Our school wish to send our love and support to the family, school and local community at this sad time.
“We, the school community, remember with love and fondness our colleague Dawn. We pray for the family and friends at this sad time.”
Deputy Pat the Cope Gallagher is a personal friend of the Croke family and also offered a statement after the tragic news.
He said: “Dawn Croke was an exceptionally gifted individual with a massive personality and warmth that radiated from her on each occasion you met her.
“I knew Dawn well, she is a member of a well-known and much respected Dungloe family. Just last month in December she visited me in Dáil Eireann with a class from Rosses Community School.
“She later brought the class to meet Brother Kevin Crowley and visit the homeless centre in Dublin to present a cheque of €1,000, which she and the class had successfully raised for the charity.
“I have spoken earlier today to brother Kevin to convey news of the tragedy; he recalled her visit and was greatly saddened by the tragic news.
“Dawn worked in the Rosses Community School, like her father before her who taught in the same school for many years. She was employed as a PE and Recourse teacher within the school.”
He added: “She was dearly loved by her students and her work colleagues all of whom are devastated at the news of her untimely death.”
A spokesman for the Garda press office confirmed on Friday: “Gardaí are investigating a fatal traffic collision at Chapel Road, Dungloe, Co. Donegal at 6.30pm on January 10.
“A woman in her 30s was fatally injured when she was struck by a car.
“A six-year-old girl was also injured and has been taken to University Hospital Letterkenny.
“The driver of the car was not injured.”