Belfast Telegraph

Buncrana pier tragedy funeral: 'Mammy I miss you so much and can't wait to see you again' heartbreaking last words of late son to mother

Priest: 'Davitt Walsh we salute you as our hero'

By Claire Williamson

"Mammy I miss you so much and I can't wait to see you again" - those were the heartbreaking last words a grieving mother heard from her eight-year-old son who drowned along with four other family members in the tragedy at Buncrana pier in Co Donegal.

Sean McGrotty, 46, died along with his two sons Mark, 12, and Evan, eight, their grandmother Ruth Daniels, 57, and her 14-year-old daughter Jodie Lee Daniels when their SUV sank after sliding off a slipway.

The only survivor of Sunday night's accident in Lough Swilly was Mr McGrotty's four-month-old baby girl Rionaghac-Ann.

Her mother Louise has said the baby is her only reason to go on living, having lost her partner, two sons, her mother and sister.

Hundreds of mourners gathered this afternoon for requiem mass at Holy Family Church near the family home in the Ballymagroarty area.

FIVE BEAUTIFUL PEOPLE TAKEN TRAGICALLY

Fr. O Kane began the funeral service saying that "five beautiful people have been taken tragically from our midst".

He said: "We are plunged in grief. Even the heavens are crying."

In his homily the priest recalled when the family attended mass for eight-year-old Evan's First Confession two weeks ago. He told of the heartbreaking phonecall that Evan had with his mum just hours before tragedy struck.

"That same little Evan who, when his mother phoned him at five to seven on Sunday evening as they sat on the pier to watch the sunset, said  ‘Mammy I miss you so much.  I am going to give you the biggest, tightest hug you ever got, when I see you again’."

Mourners heard that the family has suffered other losses with another of Ms James's sons, Joshua, only living for 17 hours and Mr McGrotty's younger sister, Ann, dying from cancer last July.

Fr O'Kane told Ms James: "You are just going to have to wait a little longer until you get that tight hug promised to you from Evan."

He told the congregation about the moment he received the call from Louise telling him it was her family that were involved in the accident.

"There comes a time when you struggle with doubt and darkness, when you stand on the brink of emptiness and despair, of anguish, fear and loneliness, that you are tempted to ask ‘Is there a God? And if there is, where is He now?  If you are a God of kindness and compassion, come out of your hiding place and show yourself."

Fr. O Kane said he broke down in tears when he visited the funeral home on Tuesday morning.

"Their occupants so peaceful in that sleep we call death,  I broke down in tears.  I was bereft and deep sighs came from my heart.  When finally prompted to pray by the undertaker, the words seemed to echo, so empty and hollow."

RAY OF HOPE

"And yet there is one little sliver of light, one ray of hope bravely breaking through the dark clouds and it is this-little Rioghnach Ann has been saved."

He paid tribute to the "self-sacrifice" of Sean on Sunday evening as he "desperately tried to save his family".

A lengthy round of applause filled the church as Fr O'Kane paid tribute to Davitt Walsh who saved the life of who saved the life of little Rioghnach Ann saying "Davitt we salute you as our hero".

MUM LOUISE 'ETERNALLY GRATEFUL' TO HERO DAVITT

Individual tributes were paid to each of the family members and Louise James who lost five members of her family addressed mourners and thanked those who tried to rescue her family.

She paid a special tribute to Davitt Walsh.

She said: "We as a family would like to take this opportunity to thank all those who were involved in the tragic events of Sunday evening,

"Firstly I would like to thank Francis Crawford and your wife for alerting the emergency services and his effort to reassuring Sean that help was on its way

"I would also like to extend our thanks to the emergency services, the coastguard, the RNLI, the fire services the medical services and the Gardai.

"And finally we will be eternally grateful to Davitt Walsh and his girlfriend Stephanie Knox for without fear for his own life and own safety you entered the Lough Swilly to save my Rionaghac-Ann.

"And I will be forever grateful to you, thank you so so much."

First Minister Arlene Foster and deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness visited the family's home this morning.

HERO REUNITED WITH CHILD HE RESCUED

Co Donegal man Davitt Walsh has been hailed a hero after swimming out into the harbour in an effort to save the six occupants of the Audi Q7.

There were emotional scenes yesterday as mourning Louise McGrotty threw her arms around the man who saved her four-month-old daughter.

Despite her incredible grief at the loss of her husband, two sons, mother and sister, Louise thanked Davitt and told him the bond between him and baby Rionaghac-Ann would last forever.

Fr Paddy O'Kane, who organised the meeting, said it was a moment of hope. "Davitt wanted to meet Louise but thought the house would be too heartbreaking for him," he added.

"The meeting ended with Davitt holding baby Rionaghac-Ann, who brought joy into the situation by opening her eyes, yawning and giving Davitt a big smile.

"Louise's face lit up when she looked at the baby, who is her source of strength at this time.

"Davitt cried and told Louise he was so sorry he couldn't save her boys, but she told him if it wasn't for his brave actions there would be seven coffins and not five, because she could not have continued if the baby had been lost.

"We were all in tears. Davitt was crying, Louise was crying and I was crying, all of us together."

Mr McGrotty handed him his baby out of the broken driver's side window just moments before the vehicle sank.

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