Belfast Telegraph

'I'm under so much stress and heartache' - woman who helped at scene of Buncrana pier drowning lodges damages claim

Stephanie Knox says she never intended to sue the estate of the deceased family

Stephanie Knox
Stephanie Knox
Davitt Walsh, who swam out into the harbour in an effort to save six occupants of the Audi Q7 that plunged off a pier

By Amy Molloy

A woman who helped at the scene of the Buncrana pier tragedy says she has received a number of abusive messages after lodging a damages claim against the local council.

Stephanie Knox, a cardiac physiologist, says she knew the claim would be issued against Donegal County Council and the insurance company, but didn’t realise the estate of the deceased family would be included in proceedings. She is suing for "loss of earnings and other matters".

“I’m under so much stress and heartache and I would love it to just blow over,” Ms Knox told

“I knew there was a claim being made against the council and the insurance company...I know what they’re [the family] going through is hard.”

Noel McGrotty, Sean McGrotty’s 86-year-old father, told Donegal Now he received the letter notifying him of the legal proceedings last week.

“It was a private delivery and I had to sign for it; it was a big envelope full of legal documents - hard for the ordinary man in the street to understand,” he said.

“Then I saw the name Knox and realised it was from the girl that took the baby when she was brought out of the water that day.”

A solicitor for Ms Knox told The Irish News that "she did not send any letter to the McGrotty family" and was instead taking action against Donegal County Council.

Mr Barr of Barr & Company Solicitors added: "She is making a claim, on the advice of her legal team, against Donegal County Council and the estate for injuries sustained.”

The firm told that they had no further comment to make at this stage.

It's thought the letter was sent by the Dublin-based Personal Injuries Assessment Board, which provides independent assessments of non-medical compensation claims in the Republic.

Sean McGrotty (49), his sons Mark (12) and Evan (8), his mother-in-law Ruth Daniels (59) and her daughter Jodie-Lee (14), died when the SUV vehicle they were travelling in slid on algae and slipped into the water at Lough Swilly on March 20, 2016.

A post-mortem examination found Mr McGrotty was more than three times over the legal drink-driving limit when the accident happened.

Ms Knox is the ex-partner of Davitt Walsh, the man who rescued four-month-old Rioghnach Ann McGrotty from the car in which five members of her family drowned.

Mr Walsh swam to the SUV and rescued the baby before it went under water.

He then swam back to the pier and handed Rioghnach to Ms Knox, who wrapped the toddler in a blanket and waited for emergency services to arrive.

Her sister posted on Facebook that “a number of people” who were present on the pier on the day of the tragedy were lodging claims and her sister then sought advice from a solicitor.

“That day has ruined her life forever, witnessing five people die in front of her, and her life will never be the same,” she wrote.

Last week marked the second anniversary of the tragedy.

The victims of the Buncrana tragedy: (clockwise from top left) Louise’s partner Sean McGrotty, their two sons Mark and Evan, sister Jodie Lee Daniels and her mother Ruth
The victims of the Buncrana tragedy: (clockwise from top left) Louise’s partner Sean McGrotty, their two sons Mark and Evan, sister Jodie Lee Daniels and her mother Ruth
Sean McGrotty
Jodie-Lee Daniels
Mark and Evan McGrotty
Ruth Daniels
Louise James with Sean McGrotty and sons Mark, 12, (right) and Evan, eight
Tributes placed on Buncrana pier

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