Belfast Telegraph

The awful tragedy of Buncrana almost beyond comprehension

Editor's Viewpoint

In a province where we have had more than our share of heartache in over four decades, the deaths of five people on Sunday in Buncrana are beyond words.

The scale of this tragedy is almost impossible to comprehend, and the suffering is felt by everyone who can bear to think about the last moments of that family.

The Bishop of Derry and Raphoe Ken Good summarised our feelings when he said: "It is impossible for most of us to comprehend the depth of heartache the bereaved are experiencing.

"For Louise in particular, who has lost two of her children Mark and Evan; her partner Sean; her mother Ruth and her sister Jodie-Lee, the sense of loss is inconceivable."

It is horrific to think how a family outing on a spring afternoon turned so quickly into utter tragedy.

Every parent, grandparent and family member will chill at the thought of this happening to them, and the sheer human loss strikes at the heart of all of us.

People everywhere have the utmost sympathy for the Daniels and McGrotty families, and particularly for Louise in her terrible loss. She is devastated, like the rest of her wider family, and she will face a terrible time ahead, mitigated only by the miraculous survival of her baby daughter Rioghnach-Ann, who was rescued in the nick of time by heroic passer-by Davitt Walsh.

At the request of a horrified bystander, he stripped off and took to the water. His graphic account of the choices then available to him, and also to the trapped family, is chilling.

In an act of supreme selflessness, the father handed over the tiny child who was then borne to safety by the near-exhausted Mr Walsh as he made his way back to the pier.

The only sliver of light in this dark, dark picture is the fact that the tiny baby survived, to be cherished and treasured by her mother and the wider family.

There is also comfort to be derived from the heroism not only of Mr Walsh, but also of the lifeboat crew and other rescue workers.

They will have to live with the most terrible memories of what they witnessed on this day of tragedy as they try to come to terms with what has happened.

There is an enormous challenge, too, for local clergy in trying to bring comfort for the family, and all the while dealing with their own grief.

In the midst of this darkness there are the obvious human questions. How did this happen? Why did it happen? Was there anything more that anyone could have done to save these lives?

If there are any answers to this, they can wait for another day. Now is the time for everyone to reflect on the fragility of life itself, to give thanks for the togetherness of their own family, and to offer their deepest prayers and sympathies to the wider family of those who were taken so cruelly from our midst.

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