herald

Wednesday 16 August 2017

Grieving mum Louise returns to scene of pier tragedy for tearful vigil

Buncrana

The family at the centre of the Buncrana pier tragedy
The family at the centre of the Buncrana pier tragedy

The heartbroken mother who lost her two young sons, partner, mother and sister in the Buncrana pier tragedy returned to the scene last night to thank the community for their support.

A vigil was held on the pier to mark the appalling accident that happened a week ago.

Before the vigil began, Louise James - with her baby daughter Rioghnach-Ann - and members of their family walked to the scene.

More than 1,000 people gathered at the pier in the Co Donegal town to honour the dead and those who tried desperately to save them.

Solidarity

Ms James' partner Sean McGrotty (46), their two sons Mark (12) and Evan (8), her mother Ruth Daniels (57) and her teenage sister Jodie-Lee (14) died after their car slid off the slipway into Lough Swilly.

The baby was saved by Davitt Walsh after Mr McGrotty passed her to him as the car sank, telling him to "save the baby".

People gathered on the shore of the Inishowen town from as early as 6pm in solidarity with Ms James and her family.

Minutes before the vigil began, those who gathered allowed her and her family time to walk down to the end of the pier where they dropped five baskets of flowers into the sea in memory of the loved ones they lost.

The family then made their way just a few hundred metres to where the community had gathered on the shore at 7pm, almost a week to the minute since last Sunday's tragedy.

The vigil was conducted by local parish priest Fr Francis Bradley. Also present was local man Francis Crawford, who witnessed the accident and alerted the emergency services.

Fighting back tears, Ms James addressed those who had gathered on the chilly March evening to show their support.

"There are no words can describe how I'm feeling at the moment," she said.

"I just want to say a big massive thank you to everybody for your words of support, kindness, generosity, everything. Thank you so much."

The crowd then erupted into spontaneous applause as many wiped away tears.

A lone piper, Cathal Gallagher, from St Naul's Pipe Band, then played Amazing Grace.

Earlier in the vigil, Fr Bradley had offered up the rosary for Sean, Mark, Evan, Ruth Jodi-Lee, for Ms James and her family and for those who helped on the night, including Mr Walsh, Mr Crawford and the emergency services.

Fr Bradley said those who gathered on the shoreline were there to support Ms James and her family and also to thank God for saving baby Rioghnach-Ann.

"Tonight another call for help goes out. And we know that this help will come. We gather in solidarity with Louise and Rioghnach-Ann," said the priest.

Candles

At another vigil in Derry, Mr McGrotty's brother, Frank, said his family had drawn strength from the support they received from around the world.

Mr McGrotty said it had "been of great comfort to the family at this most tragic time".

Hundreds of people attended the vigil in the Guildhall Square where candles were lit in memory of the victims.

"I would like to thank the people of this city for their support and everything they have done for us as a family," said Mr McGrotty.

"They have kept us in their prayers and I have to say it has been a great comfort to the family at this most tragic time to have the thoughts and support of the people of this city with us."

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