Buncrana tragedy mum Louise James does memory of Evan proud at Belfast City Marathon
As 18,000 runners hit the streets of Belfast for big event, woman who lost five loved ones in Buncrana pier tragedy hails her charity team
A mother who lost five members of her family when their car plunged off a pier embraced friends and runners as she crossed the finishing line of the Belfast City Marathon just six weeks after the tragedy.
Louise James paid an emotional tribute to more than 100 runners - including the hero rescuer of her baby daughter - who joined her for the event.
She told of how her son Evan would have been "proud" of all the participants who ran the marathon in his honour.
Ms James' partner Sean McGrotty (46) died alongside Evan, her other son Mark (12), her mother Ruth Daniels (57) and her 14-year-old sister Jodie Lee Daniels when their vehicle sank after sliding off a slipway in Buncrana, Co Donegal, in March.
Ms James, from Londonderry, went on to thank everyone who donated to Muscular Dystrophy UK.
"You did something remarkable in Evan's name and to celebrate his life. I know he would be proud," she said.
"Duchenne muscular dystrophy is a heartbreaking condition. There are hundreds of young people who live with it today. For them, we need to raise awareness of Duchenne."
Davitt Walsh, who jumped into the water and saved Ms James' four-month-old daughter Rioghnach-Ann, was among those who completed the marathon to raise funds for the charity.
He said he was still learning to deal with the tragedy but had found a lifelong friendship with Louise and little Rioghnach-Ann.
"It meant a lot to take part, it was fantastic to be able to remember Evan and it was a really fun day and went really well," he said.
"Louise was great, she had a lot of family and friends around her so I think she was very proud.
"I try to see Louise and baby Rioghnach-Ann once a week. There's a bond there and I hope it stays for the rest of my life. I have accepted that my life is never going to be the same again, but I'm learning to deal with it and taking one day at a time and trying to get back to normality.
"I went to see Louise on Saturday evening and was there for an hour and it was really good.
"It was probably the first time we got together by ourselves and Rioghnach-Ann.
"Every time I see her she gives me a lift and it's brilliant.
She's an exceptional woman. It will be a lifelong friendship if she can keep me around."
Around 18,000 people pounded the tarmac in the May Day event which included a fun run, walk and 26.2-mile race in what was its 35th year.
Kenyan Joel Kipsang Kositany did the treble by being first to cross the finish line in a time of 2.17.39.
He has won the race every year since 2014.
Among the thousands of participants was former Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers.
The Carnlough man completed the run on behalf of the Northern Ireland Hospice.
The 43-year-old, who was unveiled as the charity's ambassador in March, said he wanted to support the organisation after it looked after his father Malachy before his death from cancer.
He said: "This is an organisation that needs all the help that it can get.
"Obviously, it takes £6m a year to run and all of that has to come from proceeds that have to be raised through charities and organisations.
"For me, if I can play a little part in helping the hospice do that, that's what I would like to do.
"It's an incredible organisation, and hopefully something I can help (with) over the years to come."