herald

Saturday 19 August 2017

Buncrana pier tragedy inquests will give advice on cars in water

Sean McGrotty’s daughter Shannon and father Noel
Sean McGrotty’s daughter Shannon and father Noel

A date has been set for inquests into the drowning of five members of one family in the Buncrana pier tragedy.

A preliminary hearing into the deaths was yesterday afternoon told the formal inquests would be held before a jury over two days in November.

Proceedings in the Co Donegal town got underway yesterday to make arrangements for the inquest.

Sean McGrotty (49), his sons Evan (8) and Mark (12), the boy's grandmother Ruth Daniels (57) and her daughter Jodie Lee Tracey (14) all lost their lives when their car rolled into the waters of Lough Swilly.

Local man Davitt Walsh was hailed a hero after he swam out to the sinking vehicle and rescued a baby girl in the March 2016 tragedy.

Sean McGrotty handed his baby daughter Rioghnach-Ann to Davitt, who took her to safety.

Yesterday, members of the McGrotty family, who are from Derry, were present at the sitting of Donegal County Coroner's Court in the Inishowen Gateway Hotel in Buncrana, where the hearing took place.

Donegal Coroner Dr Denis McCauley said it was a "terrible tragedy" and that the inquest would seek to give guidance to people as to what to do when a car goes into the water.

He set November 22 and 23 as the inquest dates and adjourned proceedings for mention on September 27.

Dr McCauley said the inquests would firstly examine the events of the night.

The scope would include an examination of piers and slipways in Donegal generally.

He said, although it was unusual in Donegal, the inquests should be held before a jury. Although 69 draft depositions had been taken, he said these had been distilled down to 12 statements, which would form part of the inquests.

Tragedy

The witnesses would include a representative of Donegal County Council to give evidence about any risk assessments done prior to the tragedy.

Dr McCauley has contacted the Irish Water Safety Authority and the Road Safety Authority for any advice they could give in relation to cars and water.

The tragedy happened at 7.15pm on March 20 last year. The family were enjoying a day out in Buncrana, when their car suddenly slid into the water from the pier.

Davitt plunged into the lake to help and Sean held up baby Rioghnagh-Ann, through the car window. Davitt managed to grab the child before the Audi slipped beneath the water, and made the exhausting swim back to the pier with her.

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