Belfast Telegraph

Rescuer recalls moment he was handed baby girl

By Donna Deeney

The man who rescued a four-month-old girl of the Buncrana pier tragedy has told how driver Sean McGrotty pleaded with him to save his baby.

Davitt Walsh told yesterday's inquest into the tragedy in which five members of a Londonderry family died how he almost saved the life of Mr McGrotty's eight-year-old son Evan too.

Mr McGrotty (48), his sons Mark (12) and Evan, his partner Louise James' sister Jodie Lee Daniels (14), and her mother Ruth Daniels (58), died after their car slid into Lough Swilly.

Mr Walsh explained to Coroner Denis McCauley and a jury how he arrived at the pier with his then girlfriend Stephanie Knox, where they quickly became aware of the tragedy.

He said he could see a car "bobbing" in the water and when he got out of his car he could hear "screaming and shouting" coming from it. He immediately began to take off his clothes and entered the water.

Swimming towards the Audi car, he said he saw Mr McGrotty smash the driver's window which was a quarter of the way down.

Mr McGrotty who was "on his knees on the driver's seat" shouted out to Mr Walsh "save my baby" before handing the little girl out the window to him.

He described how he saw Mr McGrotty sitting on the window ledge of the driver's door looking around.

"I think he was looking for help but there was no more help," he said.

Mr Walsh also said he saw "a young boy" who was in the back of the car try to climb out. He "reached in and tried to pull the wee boy out" but he lost his grip on the child's arm when the car tilted forward and water gushed inside the vehicle. Mr Walsh recounted how he still had hold of the boy's hand - and that was the last thing he saw "when the car went down".

Mr Walsh's voice trembled as he explained how difficult it still was for him to recall the terrible events of March 20, 2016.

He explained how, holding the baby "above the water with my left hand" he swam against the tide back towards the shore where he handed Rioghnach-Ann to Ms Knox before he collapsed to the ground exhausted.

Asked by Dr McCauley about the length of time it took for the tragedy to unfold, Mr Walsh replied: "I can't put a time on it but when I went out, it was light and when I got back it was dusk."

The Coroner, legal representatives of Louise James, the McGrotty family and Donegal County Council all commended Mr Walsh for his heroic efforts.

Belfast Telegraph

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