Belfast Telegraph

We don't want this: Family of Buncrana five 'concerned' at backlash against Stephanie Knox

By Amy Molloy, Shane Phelan and Laura Lynott

A grieving family member of those who died in the Buncrana pier tragedy has said that his family are trying to "move on" and called for the end of backlash aimed at a woman who helped rescue the family.

Noel McGrotty (86), who lost five family members in the tragedy two years ago, was speaking after it emerged on Tuesday that a woman who helped rescue a baby during the tragedy was suing for "loss of earnings and other matters" after witnessing five people lose their lives.

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 in slid on algae and slipped into the water at Lough Swilly on March 20, 2016.

Cardiac physiologist Stephanie Knox is seeking damages after witnessing the tragedy.

Speaking to Independent.ie, Ms Knox said she didn’t realise the estate would be included in the proceedings and had received a number of abusive messages since the matter became public earlier this week.

Lawyers acting on her behalf initiated a personal injuries suit in the High Court earlier this month.

The action is against Donegal County Council, which owns the pier, and the solicitor acting as executor to the estate of Sean McGrotty.

Speaking to Independent.ie, Noel McGrotty (86), Sean McGrotty’s father, said he was concerned by public backlash directed at Ms Knox.

“I do not know the wee girl but the only thing I’m afraid of now is that the public opinion might be damaging her,” he said.

“My family doesn’t want that. The newspapers aren’t thinking of the consequences of this...The wee girl must have suffered psychological shock and I can understand that.

“This is in the hands of our solicitors. Life has to go on, I’m that type of person.”

Sean McGrotty was the driver of the SUV that slid down the algae-covered pier into Lough Swilly and submerged, trapping him and four passengers inside.

It is understood that Knox’s former partner Davitt Walsh, who rescued four-month-old Rioghnach Ann McGrotty, is not pursuing legal action.

Lawyers representing Ms Knox did not comment yesterday.

However, legal sources said an action against the estate was necessary if a claim was to be made against Mr McGrotty’s insurer.

“I’m under so much stress and heartache and I would love it to just blow over,” she said.

Ms Knox said she continued to suffer from PTSD. “I’ve been suffering ever since that day. It took me a long time to get help because I was afraid to talk about the accident I just wanted to hide it. This has just been a horrible nightmare,” she said.

Ms Knox is the second person to issue proceedings against the estate.

Louise James, who lost her partner, Mr McGrotty, two sons, a sister and her mother in the tragedy, has also sued both the council and the estate.

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

Noel McGrotty was also critical of Donegal County Council, and the findings of the inquest.

An inquest found the victims died from drowning and that it was a case of death by misadventure.

Ms Knox’s case came into the public domain after Mr McGrotty’s father Noel (86) disclosed he had received a letter about the action.

It is understood the letter was sent by the Personal Injuries Assessment Board, which is obliged under law to inform parties against whom a claim is being made.

Irish Independent

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