'Inconsolable' family's lament for five who died in pier tragedy


A young mother who lost her husband and two children and her mother and sister in a pier-side tragedy has said her surviving baby is her reason to live.

Louise McGrotty, from Ballymagroarty in Londonderry city, had been away for a hen weekend when tragedy struck as the family went on a day trip over the border to County Donegal. 

Her husband Sean, 46, died alongside their sons Mark, 12, and Evan, eight, her mother Ruth Daniels, 57, and the grieving mother's 14-year-old sister Jodie Lee.

They had been in an Audi Q7, a sports utility-type vehicle, which slid off a slip way on the pier in Buncrana into Lough Swilly, on Sunday evening.

The only survivor was the McGrotty's four-month-old baby girl Rionaghac-Ann.

The young grieving mother was in the family home for much of the day surrounded by extended family and friends as she tried to grasp the extent of the tragedy.

Clergy and politicians also came to express their condolences, including parish priest Father Paddy O'Kane who revealed the small mercy visited on the family.

"They are inconsolable," he said.

"Louise said to me, 'I have lost everyone, except little Rionaghac-Ann'. She said 'Rionaghac-Ann is my reason to go on'."

The baby girl, who was said to be doing well in Letterkenny General Hospital, was rescued by a bystander who stripped down and swam out to the sinking car as Mr McGrotty screamed for help.

He was named by eyewitnesses as David Walsh from Kerrykeel in Co Donegal.

Gardai are treating the incident - one of the worst to hit the Inishowen area of Donegal - as a tragic accident.

Ms McGrotty's brother Joshua plays for Derry City FC.

The Daniels and McGrotty families thanked everyone who had supported them in the wake of the tragedy.

"Our families have been devastated by the tragic events of last night in which five members of our family died in a terrible accident," they said.

"The family has been inundated with support and sympathy from the local community and further afield and this is deeply appreciated."

President of Ireland Michael D Higgins joined Northern Ireland's First and Deputy First Ministers in extending sympathies to the extended families.

"I have heard with the greatest sadness of the terrible loss of life of a family in Buncrana," he said.

"My heart goes out to the family and loved ones."

Martin McGuinness, who visited the scene in Buncrana after visiting the grieving mother in Derry, said there were no words to sum up her heartache.

"I have just come from meeting a young woman who has lost her partner, her two sons, her mother and her sister and it is a very, very sad house," he said.

"Truly heartbreaking, mind numbing and shocking beyond belief."

He said the family were in a total state of shock.

"They are absolutely heartbroken," he said.

NI First Minister Arlene Foster issued a joint statement with Mr McGuinness to express sorrow over the deaths.

"This tragedy resonates with us all. At times like this it is difficult to comprehend how life can be so altered in the matter of moments," they said.

The Audi car driven by Mr McGrotty is believed to have been turning at the end of the pier in Buncrana when the wheels failed to grip.

The slipway structure, used by vehicles to access a ferry back and forth across Lough Swilly to Rathmullan in the summer, is prone to a build-up of thick algae.