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Buncrana pier deaths mum Louise and hero Davitt, who rescued baby, to run Belfast Marathon

She lost five members of her family in pier tragedy - now brave Louise is going to run in marathon to raise cash for charity that helped her son

By Laura Abernethy

Published 13/04/2016

Louise James
Louise James
With baby Rioghnach-Ann in a family picture with Sean McGrotty and sons Evan (left) and Mark
Louise’s mum and sister Ruth and Jodi-Lee
Davitt Walsh

A woman who lost five members of her family at Buncrana pier is to run part of the Belfast Marathon to raise cash for the charity that helped her son Evan.

Louise James will be joined by Davitt Walsh, the hero who rescued one of her children, and 130 others.

Louise lost her partner Sean McGrotty (49), sons Evan (8) and Mark (12), mother Ruth Daniels (59), and her 14-year-old sister Jodie-Lee in the tragedy last month.

Their car left Buncrana pier in Co Donegal and entered Lough Swilly.

Baby Rioghnach-Ann was the only survivor after Mr Walsh dived into the water and rescued her from the car before it sank.

A team of friends and family, including Louise and Davitt, are now preparing to run the Belfast Marathon on May 2 as part of #teamEvan.

They are raising funding and awareness for Muscular Dystrophy Duchenne Research Breakthrough Fund as Evan had the condition and had been fitted for his first wheelchair just before his death.

The team is being organised by Thomas McCallion, who is the father of one of Evan's best friends, Tom. He said: "They went to school together and the family live three doors from my mother so they spent a lot of time in school and outside school together.

"In the week of the tragedy, Tom asked me if I would run the Belfast Marathon for Evan. He knew it was coming up and he wanted me to do it in Evan's memory."

Thomas is also running the London Marathon the week before but he agreed to take part in the race for his son and his friend.

Louise McGrotty with baby Rioghnach-Ann, who survived the tragedy, and son Evan (8), who lost his life
Louise McGrotty with baby Rioghnach-Ann, who survived the tragedy, and son Evan (8), who lost his life
Jodie Lee Daniels
Remains of the five members of the same family who drowned at Buncrana pier are taken to the family home on Tuesday morning. Photo: Joe Boland / Press Eye
Sean McGrotty
Proud granny Ruth Daniels gives Mark and Evan McGrotty a hug
Sean McGrotty (49) with son Mark (12)
Ruth Daniels (59) with daughter Jodi-Lee (14)
Sean McGrotty and his two sons Evan and Mark died at the scene. His partner Louise wasn’t present at the time of the tragedy, but her baby Rioghnach-Ann, whom she is cradling here, was rescued
Remains of the five members of the same family who drowned at Buncrana pier are taken to the family home on Tuesday morning. Photo: Joe Boland / Press Eye
Jodi-Lee playing with nephew Evan
Remains of the five members of the same family who drowned at Buncrana pier are taken to the family home on Tuesday morning. Photo: Joe Boland / Press Eye
The family’s Q7 which slid into Lough Swilly
Buncrana pier tragedy: Former Ballymena United footballer Davitt Walsh heroically dived into the water and saved baby. Image: RTE News
Mark (12) and eight-year-old Evan.
The scene at the pier in Buncrana Co Donegal. Picture Colm Lenaghan/ Pacemaker
The scene at the pier in Buncrana Co Donegal. Picture Margaret McLaughlin
The scene at the pier in Buncrana Co Donegal. Picture Margaret McLaughlin
Sean McGrotty
The scene at the pier in Buncrana Co Donegal. Picture Margaret McLaughlin
The scene at the pier in Buncrana Co Donegal. Picture Margaret McLaughlin
Ruth Daniels
The scene at the pier in Buncrana Co Donegal. Picture Colm Lenaghan/ Pacemaker
Jodie Lee Daniels.
The scene at the pier in Buncrana Co Donegal. Picture Colm Lenaghan/ Pacemaker
Jodie-Lee Daniels.
Martin McGuinness at the pier in Buncrana Co Donegal. Picture Colm Lenaghan/ Pacemaker
Jodie Lee Daniels
Garda Superintendent Colm Nevin speaks to the media. Picture Colm Lenaghan/ Pacemaker
John McCarthy from the RNLI at the Pier in Buncrana Co Donegal. Picture Colm Lenaghan/ Pacemaker
Flowers left at the Scene at the Pier in Buncrana Co Donegal. Picture Colm Lenaghan/ Pacemaker
Flowers left at the Scene at the Pier in Buncrana Co Donegal. Picture Colm Lenaghan/ Pacemaker
Jodie Lee Daniels
Francis Crawford Who raised the alarm, at the Scene at the Pier in Buncrana Co Donegal, after Five people, including children, have died after a car went off a pier. Picture Colm Lenaghan/ Pacemaker
Francis Crawford Who raised the alarm, at the Scene at the Pier in Buncrana Co Donegal, after Five people, including children, have died after a car went off a pier. Picture Colm Lenaghan/ Pacemaker
Garda at the Scene at the Pier in Buncrana Co Donegal, after Five people, including children, have died after a car went off a pier. Picture Colm Lenaghan/ Pacemaker
Francis Crawford Who raised the alarm, at the Scene at the Pier in Buncrana Co Donegal, after Five people, including children, have died after a car went off a pier. Picture Presseye
Francis Crawford Who raised the alarm, at the Scene at the Pier in Buncrana Co Donegal, after Five people, including children, have died after a car went off a pier. Picture Presseye
Francis Crawford Who raised the alarm, at the Scene at the Pier in Buncrana Co Donegal, after Five people, including children, have died after a car went off a pier. Picture Joe Bolan / Press Eye
Tributes left at the scene of the tragedy. Picture Colm Lenaghan/ Pacemaker
Emergency services on the pier at Buncrana after yesterday’s tragic accident
Rescue services at the pier in Buncrana where a family of five perished after their car slide into Loch Swilly
The pier in daylight
Algae on the slipway which would have made it difficult for the vehicle to get any traction
An Audi Q7 like the one in which the family got trapped

Thomas said: "In the past, my kids have run the last bit of the marathon with me so he asked if he could do some of it with me. It's really about him doing something for Evan."

When friends and family heard about what Thomas was doing, they asked if they could help and now they have more than 130 people running.

Thomas said: "We'll have 26 relay teams and each final leg will be run by close family and friends of Louise. That's the significance of it. It's not about any club or anything. It's purely for them.

"I have my own reasons to remember Evan. He spent a lot of time with my family and he was a very clever and witty boy. He never let his condition get to him. #TeamEvan is about remembering such a special boy and the wider family circle. They were a special family and this is a chance for us all to come together to do something."

Louise and Davitt will also be joined by Louise's brother Josh as well as members of Sean's family.

"It's all about the family and we will support them," Thomas said.

"This is their chance to get together in their grief. I think it will be quite a difficult day for everyone because so many people are very close to the situation.

"We're all quite emotional even just chatting about what is going to be involved. Louise is helping behind the scenes and her strength has given everyone the confidence or the will to do this."

The runners will wear orange - the colour of the Muscular Dystrophy charity - and they are working closely with the charity to raise as much money as possible. Thomas said they are also encouraging people to come out and cheer them on as they run the 26.2-mile route.

"We're encouraging people to come out and show their support. I know Louise has appreciated the messages from across the world but this is a chance for people to cheer everyone on along the way."

To donate go to: www.justgiving.com and search for #teamevan

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