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Wednesday, 12 September, 2001, 17:03 GMT 18:03 UK
Survivor's family die in tragic twist
The second plane approaches the South Tower
Brother escaped terror attack while sister died
An Irishman fled the World Trade Center only to discover that his sister and young niece were on board one of the hijacked jets which had ploughed into it.

Ronnie Clifford, from Cork, was counting his blessings at his own survival when he discovered that his sister Ruth Clifford McCourt, 45, and four-year-old daughter Juliana had been on the first hijacked plane which hit the twin towers.

Mrs McCourt and her daughter were the first Irish people confirmed dead by the US authorities after the terrorist attacks on Tuesday.

Mr Clifford had run for his life after the first plane struck the twin towers in New York, and escaped the second tower as it was hit by the United Airlines Boeing 767.

Family 'devastated'

Mrs McCourt, originally from County Cork in the Irish Republic, had been living in Connecticut for some time.

Irish victims Ruth McCourt and daughter Juliana
Irish victims Ruth McCourt and daughter Juliana
Her brother John, speaking from Cork on Wednesday, said she had been travelling from Boston to Los Angeles for a short holiday.

All 266 passengers and crew on the four planes hijacked are believed to have been killed in the attacks, which have sent the world into shock.

Mrs McCourt was among 56 passengers on the hijacked plane which first hit the twin towers.

John Clifford 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.

"He said he saw sights he would never see again. Very sad. Very evil, but he's safe," he said.

John Clifford discovered his sister had died but his brother escaped
John Clifford discovered his sister had died but his brother escaped
He continued: "I was very concerned when the two buildings collapsed, because I knew Ronnie worked in one.

"He phoned to say he made it, he was okay, 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.

'She was full of life'

"He said that unfortunately, while he was OK, 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."

A friend of Mrs McCourt, who lived in Connecticut and had gone to Boston to fly 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".

Irish premier Bertie Ahern, expressed his sympathy to the family and to all those affected by the attacks.

A national day of mourning in the Irish Republic, for the American people, is to be held on Friday.

If you have links with Northern Ireland and have an eyewitness story to tell about the attacks in America, click here to e-mail Radio Ulster's Talkback programme.

John Clifford
had relatives on one of the hijacked planes and in the World Trade Center

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See also:

12 Sep 01 | Northern Ireland
US authorities name first Irish victims
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