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Buncrana deaths: Immense courage of mum Louise McGrotty as she shoulders a burden of agonising grief

Donegal pier tragedy - heartbreak for McGrotty and Daniels families [photos] Close

Evan McGrotty, aged eight, died alongside his father Sean McGrotty (49), 12-year-old brother Mark, grandmother Ruth Daniels, 59, and her 14-year-old daughter, Jodie Lee Daniels, when their SUV sank after sliding off a "slippery as ice" slipway in Buncrana in March 2016.

Evan McGrotty, aged eight, died alongside his father Sean McGrotty (49), 12-year-old brother Mark, grandmother Ruth Daniels, 59, and her 14-year-old daughter, Jodie Lee Daniels, when their SUV sank after sliding off a "slippery as ice" slipway in Buncrana in March 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

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

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

Sean McGrotty

Proud granny Ruth Daniels gives Mark and Evan McGrotty a hug

Proud granny Ruth Daniels gives Mark and Evan McGrotty a hug

Sean McGrotty (49) with son Mark (12)

Sean McGrotty (49) with son Mark (12)

Ruth Daniels (59) with daughter Jodi-Lee (14)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

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 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

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

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

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

Ruth Daniels

The scene at the pier in Buncrana Co Donegal. Picture Colm Lenaghan/  Pacemaker

The scene at the pier in Buncrana Co Donegal. Picture Colm Lenaghan/ Pacemaker

Jodie Lee Daniels.

Jodie Lee Daniels.

The scene at the pier in Buncrana Co Donegal. Picture Colm Lenaghan/  Pacemaker

The scene at the pier in Buncrana Co Donegal. Picture Colm Lenaghan/ Pacemaker

Jodie-Lee Daniels.

Jodie-Lee Daniels.

Photopress Belfast

Martin McGuinness at the pier in Buncrana Co Donegal. Picture Colm Lenaghan/  Pacemaker

Martin McGuinness at the pier in Buncrana Co Donegal. Picture Colm Lenaghan/ Pacemaker

Jodie Lee Daniels

Jodie Lee Daniels

Photopress Belfast

Garda Superintendent Colm Nevin speaks to the media.
 Picture Colm Lenaghan/  Pacemaker

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

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

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

Jodie Lee Daniels

Photopress Belfast

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

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

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 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

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

Tributes left at the scene of the tragedy. Picture Colm Lenaghan/ Pacemaker

Emergency services on the pier at Buncrana after yesterday’s tragic accident

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

Rescue services at the pier in Buncrana where a family of five perished after their car slide into Loch Swilly

The pier in daylight

The pier in daylight

Algae on the slipway which would have made it difficult for the vehicle to get any traction

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

An Audi Q7 like the one in which the family got trapped

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Evan McGrotty, aged eight, died alongside his father Sean McGrotty (49), 12-year-old brother Mark, grandmother Ruth Daniels, 59, and her 14-year-old daughter, Jodie Lee Daniels, when their SUV sank after sliding off a "slippery as ice" slipway in Buncrana in March 2016.

Surrounded by people and yet almost completely alone, Louise McGrotty stood at her gate to welcome home the remains of the lights of her life.

It had only been two days before that her family had left the bungalow, their entire focus on spending a carefree sunny spring day together amid the glorious panorama of Lough Swilly. Now all Louise had left was her four-month-old baby Rioghnac-Ann, the sole survivor of the worst disaster in many years to befall the Inishowen community.

It was shortly after midday that the long and winding procession of five hearses slowly made its way up the hill at St Eithne's Park.

The coffin of her beloved partner Sean McGrotty (49) - who had "lived for the wains and wee Louise" - was first to be taken into the house.

Louise was calm and authoritative as she walked in the wake of those who carried him.

The little white coffins of the two boys Evan (8), who suffered from muscular dystrophy, and Mark (12) were next. Each coffin was heartbreakingly feather-light and each time Louise herself insisted on being among the party that carried them in their arms.

In the depths of her despair, her courage was immense.

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Throughout her ordeal, as she brought home the remains of each individual she had loved and cherished above all others, she maintained a luminous calm strength that was almost supernatural. Nobody could even begin to imagine the pain and devastation she endured. She had told parish priest Fr Paddy O'Kane that was she was "lost, destroyed" and that Rioghnac-Ann was her only reason to continue.

The next white coffin was that of her teenage sister Jodi-Lee (14) - described by her school principal at St Mary's College as a "quiet, hard-working and beautiful young girl who was always smiling".

Again, Louise insisted on helping to carry her inside, and outside the bungalow Jodi-Lee's teenage friends burst into wails of desolation, comforted by their mothers.

Last came the coffin of her darling mother Ruth (59), described by neighbours as "a lovely, hardworking woman who had loved her style". The undertaker quietly asked Louise if she was able for this, but once again she was determined, and taking her place among the coffin bearers, lifted its weight onto her shoulder. Huddled together in small knots of grief, the neighbours and friends wept.

"Heartbreaking," whispered an elderly woman in anguish.

And then the family were left alone with their close friends to mourn their loved ones in private.

The horror of the tragedy in Buncrana has left the two communities numb with grief. In the early morning the scene at Buncrana pier was quietly visited by Fire Brigade personnel who had taken part in the rescue and recovery operation in an attempt to begin to process their own private thoughts. A middle-aged woman was there before them, lost in grief as tears rolled down her face.

The night before a counselling session had been held for members of the Lough Swilly RNLI crews who had taken part in the recovery operation - many of whom have children of a similar age to those who died.

At St Eithne's school, where the two boys had been pupils, bunches of daffodils had been tied to the railings, along with a small, neatly written note in a child's handwriting, saying: "Evan, you had a smile to light up everybody's day."

Source Irish Independent


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