Four young girls have been killed in a road collision with a van as they were returning to college after the Christmas break, near Athy, County Kildare in Ireland.

Three of the dead passengers were aged 19 and the fourth was twenty-years-old.

The 20-year-old driver is in a critical condition in hospital. The two men who were in the van have also been seriously injured but managed to escape the wrecked vehicle before it caught fire.

Father Frank McEvoy was called to the tragic scene shortly after the accident happened on N78 at 9.45pm on Monday, where he gave the four dead women the Last Rites at the roadside.

"To see four young bodies on the side of the road, it was very sad and very sobering," he told the Irish Independent.

"It really brought it home. So many people are careful on the roads now but anything can happen."

Gardaí said road conditions were good at the time of the accident.

Ben Finnegan, president of Maynooth University Students' Union, said: "I am extremely concerned of the immediate effects this tragic accident could have on fellow students right in the middle of exams when stress levels are already at a serious high."