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Family's priest stunned by magnitude of Donegal pier horror deaths

By Lesley-Anne McKeown

Published 22/03/2016

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

The scale of the tragedy visited upon the relatives of those killed off Buncrana pier is beyond adequate description, the Bishop of Derry has said.

Catholic cleric Donal McKeown and Church of Ireland Bishop for Derry and Raphoe Ken Good went to the home of Louise McGrotty — who lost her husband, two children and her mother and sister in the drowning accident — to comfort her and other bereaved relations.

Crowdfunding raises thousands for family of Buncrana pier tragedy victims  

“There are no adequate words in the face of such pain,” Bishop McKeown said.

“My thoughts and prayers are with those who are bereaved, in particular a grieving mother.

“I ask the people of the diocese to keep this family in your thoughts and prayers over the coming days and weeks.”

Bishop Good said the whole community had been touched by news of the deaths.

“Everybody right across the community, right across the whole country and right across the world I think wants to express their solidarity, their sympathy, their standing togetherness and that’s what we want to do,” he said.

The family’s parish priest Father Paddy O’Kane from Holy Family Church described the tragedy as the worst he had seen in 43 years and said the entire community was struggling to comprehend its magnitude.

“Words fail me to describe the depth of pain and the vastness of this tragedy,” he said.

He added: “I am 43 years a priest and nothing compares to this. This is way beyond anything in my wildest imagination.

“This is the worst thing I have ever had.

“When I went up there this morning people were just standing around — men were just standing looking at the ground not knowing what to say.

“All you can do is just shake their hand and say ‘I’m sorry’. A respectful silence is all I could muster.

“Before I left the house I said the Lord’s Prayer with everyone to give Louise and her family strength.

“We all knew there was a terrible tragedy that happened in Buncrana last night but we didn’t realise it was on our doorstep. Little did I know it was going to come here.”

It is understood the family had celebrated eight-year-old Evan’s first confession just a fortnight ago and were preparing for his first communion in May.

Baby Rioghnach-Ann, the sole survivor of the accident, was christened in January.

Fr O’Kane said: “It was a time of celebration. Little did we think that so soon after we were going to have such a tragedy on our doorstep.

“Two weeks ago little Evan made his first confession here and he was about to make his first communion in May. Little did we think that two weeks ago he wouldn’t be here.

“They are inconsolable.”

The mayor of Derry City and Strabane District Council Elisha McCallion announced that a book of condolence will be opened at the Guildhall in Derry for those who wish to express their sympathies for the five victims of the drowning tragedy.

“This is a terrible tragedy in Buncrana which has claimed the lives of five people, including three children,” she said.

“It has affected the entire community in Derry and Donegal and left all of us numb.

“Who would have thought that a family day out could have ended so tragically.

“It is beyond belief and I can’t put into words how sorry I am for the family and for those affected by this dreadful accident.

“This is a heart-wrenching story that really captures the heart of every person and it is important that we provide a forum through which people can express their condolences.”

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