Still mentally scarred by Ballykelly bombing
STILL haunted by the horror of December 6, 1982, when the Droppin Well in Ballykelly was ripped apart by an INLA explosion, one of the survivors is now speaking out about the mental illness he incurred after such a horrific atrocity.
BY NIALL DEENEY
Steve ‘Taffy’ Horvath, a former army paramedic who survived the bombing which claimed the lives of 11 of his army comrades and a further six ordinary civilians, now lives in sheltered accommodation in his native Wales.
He is trying to overcome the affliction of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Mr Horvath is a client of ‘Combat Stress’, a charity set up in 1919 to aid ‘shell-shock’ victims on their return from the First World War, and will be taking on a 68 mile sponsored walk to raise both money for and awareness of the charity.
With the 30th Anniversary of the massacre approaching, he told the Sentinel how flashbacks and nightmares of “picking up bits of broken bodies” have ruined his life, but said that he counts himself lucky to have blocked out the worst of the memories.
Mr Horvath also told of how nightmares which had been recurring for 25 years were finally laid to rest after a commemoration event in Ballykelly when he came face-to-face with a local girl whose life he had saved. The ‘Troubles’ veteran said his most vivid memory of the Droppin Well bombing was working on “one specific casualty”, someone he later realised he knew nothing about – even whether they had lived or died. The guilt of not knowing this casualty’s fate, along with his recurring nightmares, were laid to rest as he realised - “she did live. She told me - you saved my life.”
The Northern Ireland veteran also spoke of how he “smacked” a psychiatrist whom he met after ending up in a mental hospital in Norfolk, simply for coming up with the diagnosis of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). The mental injuries he incurred during the bombing and the resulting diagnosis of Combat-induced PTSD was something he felt at the time was a “weak-willed illness” not fit for a “stubborn, bloody minded Welshman” such as himself.
He has since accepted the diagnosis, and is now contemplating the challenges ahead for a man “both physically and mentally disabled” as he plans a 68 mile sponsored walk for Combat Stress.
Mr Horvath believes the charity needs all the help it can get, both for the former RUC and UDR men who were affected by the worst horrors of the Troubles, and for the thousands of young men and women set to face the struggle of coping with the aftermath of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
He was inspired into action for Combat Stress after a close friend and neighbour in his sheltered accommodation complex in West Wales suggested taking on a sponsored walk. Steve ‘Taffy’ Horvath said that he was initially reluctant to take part because of his mental and physical disabilities, but felt moved enough after watching a television programme about fellow veterans to give it a go. He said: “I watched that bloody programme about the five guys climbing Mount Everest, and I thought, well if those chaps can make a go at climbing Everest – a stubborn Welshman like me can do a 70 mile walk.”
He is urging everyone to donate money to Combat Stress for his sponsored walk, which Sentinel readers can do by visiting www.justgiving.com/SteveTaffyHorvath.
The sponsored walk, which was originally scheduled for last week, has had to be postponed due to a warning from the Coastguard that it would be unsafe to travel along the Pembrokeshire Coast during high winds. It is expected to take begin this afternoon (Saturday, September 29, 2012).
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Sunday 19 May 2013
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