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School memorial day pays tribute to Buncrana pier tragedy victim Jodie-Lee

By Claire Williamson

Published 29/06/2016

Pupils and staff of St Mary’s College
Pupils and staff of St Mary’s College
Sarah Bonner with Louise James and daughter Rioghnach-Ann
Jodie-Lee Daniels

A memorial bench has been unveiled by classmates in memory of the 14-year-old girl who died in the Buncrana pier tragedy.

Jodie-Lee Daniels perished with four members of her family in March after a day trip to Donegal ended in horror when their car slid off a slipway into Lough Swilly.

Her Year 10 classmates held a day of reflection to remember her at St Mary's College in Londonderry. Last week's event was attended by Jodie-Lee's sister Louise James.

Louise lost her partner Sean McGrotty (46), who died alongside her sons Evan (8) and Mark (12), her mother Ruth Daniels (57) and Jodie Lee.

The sole survivor was Louise's baby daughter Rioghnach-Ann, who was also at the memorial day in St Mary's.

The baby was passed out of the window of the sinking vehicle to passer-by Davitt Walsh, who swam out to the car.

As well as the special bench being unveiled, the school also planted a tree in the memorial garden to remember Jodie-Lee.

The bench was purchased with the help of funds raised by pupil Sarah Bonner, who completed a charity paddle of the River Foyle from Prehen Boathouse to Culmore Point. The 14-year-old told the Belfast Telegraph: "I just wanted to do something positive to remember Jodie-Lee. The paddle was good, it took two hours. I got support from some of the Foyle Paddlers.

"I was very nervous about the paddle and about going back on the water after what happened.

"It took two of my coaches to encourage me to get back on, and also thinking of Jodie-Lee when I was on the water and remembering the good times."

Sarah said the memorial event was very emotional.

"It was very sad in the morning. The seat was unveiled and then we had a wee lip-sync battle to try and cheer us up in the afternoon.

"Louise and the wee baby were there and it was very emotional having them there."

Posting on its website, the school said pupils had a "lovely day remembering beautiful Jodie-Lee".

"We had a lovely day in St Mary's. A day of reflection for our Year 10 pupils in remembrance of our beautiful Jodie-Lee.

"We had great workshops in the morning, positive thinking. In the afternoon each form class had a lip-sync battle.

"Our Year 10 pupils planted a tree in our memorial garden to remember Jodie Lee."

by claire williamson

Belfast Telegraph

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