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'No adequate words' for clergy tasked with comforting pier tragedy mother

Published 21/03/2016

The scene at Buncrana Pier in Co Donegal
The scene at Buncrana Pier in Co Donegal

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 together 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.

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

"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 senior church figures were accompanied to the house in the Ballymagroarty area of Derry by the family's parish priest Father Paddy O'Kane from Holy Family Church.

At the bungalow in St Eithne's Park there was a steady stream of ashen faced visitors throughout Monday.

Father O'Kane 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.

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

Father 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."

Speaking at the scene of the tragedy earlier, Northern Ireland's Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness said the communities in Derry and Donegal would have to throw their arms around the bereaved family.

Father O'Kane said locals had rallied round.

He said: "People are very good in this parish and they will do all they can to help but what can you do and what can you say."

The funeral, expected to take place on Thursday, is going to be one of the most difficult, the priest concluded.

"I have never had to do anything like this before so I hope the Lord gives me the right words to say to give some sort of consolation and peace," he said.

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