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A man managed to escape the World Trade Centre as it was hit by a hijacked jet, only to find out that his sister and young niece were on board.” Life doesn’t get much more tragic than this.

Date: Wed, 12 Sep 2001 17:33:11 +0100
From: “Donal O’Carroll” (spam-protected)
To: (spam-protected)
Subject: Tragic twist for Irish survivor,1300,550792,00.html

Tragic twist for Irish survivor

Staff and agencies Wednesday September 12, 2001

A man managed to escape the World Trade Centre yesterday as it was hit by a hijacked jet, only to find out that his sister and young niece were on board, his family revealed today.

Irishman Ronnie Clifford fled after the first plane struck the twin towers in New York yesterday, and escaped the second tower as it was hit by the United Airlines Boeing 767.

In a devastating turn of events, his sister Ruth Clifford McCourt, 45, and her four-year-old daughter Juliana were passengers on the second plane – they died as he escaped.

Meanwhile, British officials in New York believe that at least 15 Britons may be among the missing in the devastated rubble of the World Trade Centre. Consular officials are currently liasing with emergency services to try to establish identities.

Mrs McCourt, originally from the Lough, Cork, was among 56 passengers on the hijacked plane which was travelling from Boston to Los Angeles.

Mr Clifford’s brother, John, today told of their deaths and his brother’s escape. John, also from Cork, said he began fearing for his sister and niece after discovering that his brother was safe.

He said: “Tragically my sister hit the tower building as my brother was on the ground floor. He’s safe now. He’s very traumatised.”

John Clifford said he became concerned when the two buildings collapsed because he knew his brother worked in one. However, he later “phoned to say he made it, he was OK, traumatised, that he was within an inch of his life”.

“He went through the front door on the ground floor and a lady was about three seconds in front of him. She was hit by a terrific fireball. She subsequently died,” he added.

“He said that unfortunately, while he was okay, he had a feeling that his sister – my sister – had left Logan airport to go to Los Angeles with her daughter at around 7.30 in the morning.

“So we were then concerned that she may have been on either of the two flights that crashed into the towers, and that was confirmed,” he said.

A friend of Mrs McCourt, who lived in Connecticut and was flying to LA for a few days’ holiday, was also killed.

Mr Clifford said his sister’s husband was absolutely devastated. Juliana was their only child. Mr Clifford said she was a “beautiful” girl and described his sister as “full of life”.

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