Belfast Telegraph

UK Website Of The Year

Buncrana tragedy: Mass celebrates lives of victims lost in Lough Swilly - Mark would stop playing just to give his mum a hug

By Donna Deeney

Published 21/04/2016

Frank McGrotty (left), whose brother Sean died in the Buncrana tragedy, was among the hundreds attending the Month’s Mind Mass at the Holy Family Church in Ballymagroarty last night
Frank McGrotty (left), whose brother Sean died in the Buncrana tragedy, was among the hundreds attending the Month’s Mind Mass at the Holy Family Church in Ballymagroarty last night
Frank McGrotty (left), whose brother Sean died in the Buncrana tragedy, was among the hundreds attending the Month’s Mind Mass at the Holy Family Church in Ballymagroarty last night
Ruth Daniels (left) and Jodie-Lee Daniels
Sean McGrotty's son Evan
Sean McGrotty and his son Mark
Fr Paddy O'Kane was joined at the alter by Bishop of Derry Donal McKeown
Louise James

A little boy who died in the Buncrana pier drowning tragedy was a loving son who would come in from playing in the street with friends just to give his mother a hug, a congregation has heard.

One month to the day after Louise James lost five members of her family, the grieving widow was supported by hundreds at the Holy Family Church in Londonderry.

The touching story about her oldest son Mark was just one of the poignant tales that prompted both tears and laughter at the emotionally-charged Month's Mind Mass.

Three generations were lost to the waters of Lough Swilly in the horrifying Co Donegal tragedy last month.

Louise lost her partner, Sean McGrotty (46), their two sons, Mark (12) and Evan (8), her mother Ruth Daniels (57) and her sister Jodie-Lee Daniels (15) when their car slid off a slipway.

Among those gathered with the two families was Davitt Walsh, the man who heroically rescued baby Rioghnach-Ann, Louise and Sean's four-month-old daughter and the sole survivor of the tragedy.

Fr Paddy O'Kane, who has provided spiritual support to the McGrotty and Daniels families for the past month, was joined at the alter by Bishop of Derry Donal McKeown.

In a touching and heartfelt homily, Fr O'Kane recalled "happy-go-lucky" children who loved Derry City Football Club - but not as much as their mum.

"Mark loved playing at school, or on the street with his friends," the priest said.

"He would run inside and give Louise a hug and then re-join his friends - for Louise had told him and Evan to come and hug her as often as they wanted."

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

He said Evan, who had Muscular Dystrophy, showed great determination in his short life. "Once he was ill and was told he had to stay at home - but he rebelled and insisted he would go," Fr O'Kane said. "You can see the certificate of merit he got for 100% attendance that year."

Fr O'Kane also held up a religious statue Evan had admired for the congregation to see in the Ballymagroarty church - where the boy was due to have first Holy Communion in a few weeks. "He loved this little statue of Our Lady so much that he broke her hand with his hugs and kisses," he added.

The priest said that Louise and her family had given him the "greatest privilege" by "accepting my shoulder on which to shed your tears".

He said: "I have had letters and phone calls from good people from countries near and far, asking me to tell Louise and her family that they are thinking about them and praying for them. There have been Books of Condolences from people of many faiths. We have all been united in grief, and you, Louise, have told me to pass on your deep gratitude to all, and how it has helped in some little way to come to terms with all that has happened."

Fr O'Kane said Ruth "doted on her six children and eight grandchildren".

He recalled Jodie-Lee's big smile and infectious laugh and how she was loved by everyone and "had made a great contribution to the life of the school" and how like her mother she "loved her style".

Louise's partner Sean was "a hard grafter" who was at the top of his profession as a glazier, said Fr O'Kane.

Later, Bishop Donal McKeown paid tribute to Fr O'Kane, sparking applause from the congregation and tears from the priest.

Belfast Telegraph

Read More

From Belfast Telegraph