Lurgan taxi driver in Oregon massacre drama

David Whan with his fiancee Angie
David Whan with his fiancee Angie

A Lurgan man who lives in Oregon has spoken of the horror when he discovered his fiancee’s niece was in a classroom next to the killer of nine people at his local school.

David Whan told the ‘MAIL’ of the morning he discovered friends and family were affected by the school massacre.

Nine people have been killed and seven injured in the shooting at a college in the US state.

The gunman, 26, opened fire at Umpqua Community College on Thursday morning and was killed in a shootout with police.

Mr Whan, who is from Magheralin, owns a taxi firm in the same town.

He told the ‘MAIL’ how local law enforcement officers requested his help to get many of the distraught students home soon after the massacre.

David said: “I got a phone call from the Oregon State Police at work. They asked if we could provide taxis to give students from the college lifts home. As a local company we were only too glad to do so and of course at no cost to the students. All our drivers volunteered their time to help out.”

He also told of his family’s horror when they discovered how close one of their members had come to the massacre.

“My fiancee Angie had a niece in the classroom next to the room the shooter targeted. I’d have to say she is a very lucky girl to have come out of it unscathed.

“I know another woman who was also in a room close to the shooter’s targeted room.

“She ran and locked herself in a bathroom with other people hoping he wouldn’t get to them.

“Luckily he didn’t and she got out safe and well,” said David.

Mr Whan, who emigrated to Oregon on St Patrick’s Day 2003, described the shock which had shattered the quiet of the small town.

“I met Angie who is the best thing that has ever happened to me. She is the love of my life. Although we aren’t married yet we have we have plans to rectify that in the near future with a trip home in the works.

“I live in Roseburg, a small Oregon town nestled among tens of thousands of Douglas Fir trees and wide fast flowing rivers, as is much of the Pacific North West.

“It was built around the timber industry and is a quiet place mostly.

“I work as a manager of a local taxi company having been a driver and dispatcher for the same company in the past.

“The mass shooting at the college here was a real shock to the system as it is so quiet around here. It’s the last place you’d ever dream of such a tragic event taking place.

“I first heard the news online. First reports gave the number dead as just one. Then as more details filtered through the numbers of dead and injured just kept on rising.

“It brought back memories that we all lived through being brought up back home,” he told the ‘MAIL’.

“A few TV stations stopped by and interviewed me about what had happened. One in particular, a reporter heard my accent and asked if I was from Northern Ireland. I told him I was and he said i suppose you thought you’d left all this behind you, (referring to the Troubles).

“He asked if the shooting at the college wanted me to leave Oregon now. I told him NO! I won’t be going anywhere. I have made too many good friends here and have a woman I’m deeply in love with, why would I leave?,” said David.