Belfast Telegraph

Buncrana pier tragedy mum Louise James expresses thanks to thousands for support after tragic deaths of five family members

'Derry came together, whether you’re Catholic or Protestant, nothing matters in a time of need'

Louise James - the woman whose partner, two sons, sister and mother died at the Buncrana pier tragedy - has thanked the thousands who gave their support in the aftermath of the tragedy.

Speaking to the Irish News, Louise described how the thousands of messages of sympathy, goodwill and hope she has received in the three months since the March tragedy have helped her during her grief.

Louise said she was not yet ready to talk about the terrible tragedy but felt the need to publicly thank people from all over the world who have contacted her.

Louise’s 48-year-old partner Sean McGrotty, sons Mark (12) and 8-year-old Evan, her 14-year-old sister Jodie-Lee and mother Ruth Daniels (58) all drowned when Mr McGrotty’s car slid on algae into the waters of Lough Swilly after a family day out.

The sole survivor was Louise’s baby daughter Rioghnach.

The four-month-old baby was passed out the window of the sinking vehicle to Donegal man Davitt Walsh who swam out to the family.

Louise said Sean gave her a sign that she should speak to the Irish News.

She said: "I’m still receiving messages on a daily basis. It’s nice because I have read every single one and it makes you feel sometimes like you’re not the only one grieving.

"Even though I’ve had the biggest loss, you sort of feel that you are not on your own.”

Louise said she was particularly moved by countless children who sent their pocket money to support her.

Ans she paid tribute to the scores of people who helped at the scene and those who supported her in the aftermath of the tragedy.

“I want to say a big thanks to everyone, starting with the people who were there that night, all the emergency services, the RNLI, all the staff at Letterkenny hospital, Davitt (Walsh) and (his girlfriend) Stephanie (Knox).

"I want to thank Connie and Theresa (McIntyre) because Connie and Theresa helped Davitt and Stephanie - they were there that night but have not really come into the picture. I want to thank Kay and Francis Crawford.

“I want to thank Fr Paddy O’Kane. He has been a tower of strength to me, he really has. He’s been at the door, he’s been at the house, he been at the other end of the phone.”

She also thanked undertakers Willie O’Brien and his staff and the police for their help with the funeral.

And she paid a special thanks for her native Derry.

“I am so, so proud to be from Derry, all the businesses and all the clubs and everybody who put on events to help us. It means so much," she added.

“For such a small town, it came together, city side and Waterside. I got books of condolences from everywhere and a particularly lovely one from Nelson Drive (a unionist area of Derry’s Waterside). That was lovely.

"It proved that our town can come together, whether you’re Catholic or Protestant, nothing matters in a time of need.”

Louise said she hoped that by extending her “deep, deep thanks” through The Irish News, people would know how much the fact that they took time out to write meant to her and will mean to Rioghnach in the years and decades to come.

“Obviously my greatest thanks must go to Sean’s family and my family and our close friends who have been with me every step of the way," she added.

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