Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 19 April 2014

Father's dilemma in canoe tragedy

Garry Mackay leaves East Church in Muir of Ord, Scotland, following the funeral of his five-year-old daughter Grace

The father who survived a canoe accident that claimed the life of his child and two others has told how he thought the children were wearing life jackets.

Garry Mackay said he did not realise the youngsters were only fitted out with buoyancy aid jackets when he made the "hardest decision of his life" to swim to shore for help after the boat overturned in a Highland loch.

His daughter Callie, eight, managed to swim to safety but her five-year-old sister Grace died after being rescued from the water.

Mr Mackay's friend Ewen Beaton, 32, drowned along with his five-year-old son, also Ewen, and brother Jamie, two, in the accident on Loch Gairloch in Wester Ross last month.

"When I decided to swim to the shore, I believed the children were wearing life jackets," Mr Mackay, 35, said in an interview with the Scotland on Sunday newspaper.

"I wasn't sure I would make it, but I thought that if I managed to get help they would be OK because, although their bodies slow down with the cold, children can survive for quite a long time in the sea.

"I didn't realise they were only wearing buoyancy aids, which don't keep your head out of water if you lose consciousness."

Buoyancy aids are designed as a floatation rather than life-saving device and are commonly used for surface watersports such as canoeing and kayaking.

Van driver and former soldier Mr Mackay told the newspaper he had lots of "what ifs" about the day of the tragedy but said he knew he had done everything he could to try and save the children after the canoe capsized on August 26.

The body of Mr Beaton has not been found despite extensive searches.

Latest News

Latest Sport

Latest Showbiz