Belfast Telegraph

Round of applause for hero Davitt Walsh who pulled baby from lough

By Ivan Little

Mourners at the funerals of the five members of the same family who died in the Buncrana pier tragedy saluted hero Davitt Walsh, the former footballer who saved baby Rioghnach-Ann from the waters of Lough Swilly.

The former Derry City, Finn Harps and Ballymena United striker will have received the acclaim of fans on the terraces before, but what happened in the Holy Family Church yesterday was a spontaneous response to his bravery in the face of overwhelming odds last weekend.

Yet the spontaneous round of applause which lasted 38 seconds was the only way the congregation could acknowledge the heroism of the Kerrykeel man who risked his own life to rescue four-month-old Rioghnach-Ann who was handed to him by her father Sean before his SUV sank into the water off the pier.

Parish priest Fr Patrick O'Kane paid tribute to Davitt for diving into the water on his rescue bid, but he also thanked his girlfriend Stephanie Knox for her quick thinking as "she warmed the baby's little blue body back to life".

The priest recalled how Davitt had met with Louise and Rioghnach-Ann in his parochial house on Tuesday.

He said of the baby, whom he described as a little sliver of light in the darkness: "She opened her beautiful blue eyes, smiled up at him and had a big yawn."

Fr O'Kane said Davitt had expressed regret that he couldn't save any more lives at Buncrana but Louise told him: "Don't blame yourself that you did not do more - we are so grateful for what you did." Louise reiterated what had been her private thanks to Davitt in public at the Holy Family Church yesterday.

"I will be forever grateful to you." she said. Her words were greeted with another heartfelt and sustained round of applause.

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