Belfast Telegraph

Woman caught up in Buncrana tragedy says she didn’t know injuries claim would involve the estate of one of the victims

By Amy Molloy

A woman who helped rescue a baby during the Buncrana pier tragedy says she didn't realise the estate of the deceased driver would be included in a personal injuries action she is taking.

Cardiac physiologist Stephanie Knox is seeking damages for "loss of earnings and other matters" after witnessing five people lose their lives in the tragedy two years ago.

Ms Knox said she had been receiving treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Lawyers acting on her behalf initiated a personal injuries suit in the High Court in Dublin 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.

The Londonderry man was the driver of the SUV which slid down the algae-covered pier into Lough Swilly and submerged, trapping him and four passengers inside.

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

Mr Walsh made "a public statement" on social media on Wednesday.

"Firstly I have the utmost respect for Stephanie Knox, Stephanie has suffered extreme trauma since the tragic events of that horrible day in Buncrana," he wrote.

"Secondly I have not given an interview to ANY newspaper or media source. I have been wrongly misquoted, I strongly refute anything that has been printed in my name.

"I have moved on with my life since that day, in the best way that I can. Please respect my privacy."

His statement comes after quotes attributed to Mr Walsh appeared in the Daily Mail.

Ms Knox said she didn't realise Mr McGrotty's estate would be included in the proceedings and had received abusive messages since the matter became public earlier this week.

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," she commented.

"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."

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.

Mr 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 on a slipway and entered the water at Lough Swilly on March 20, 2016.

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

Yesterday, 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 commented.

"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," Mr McGrotty added.

He 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 Noel McGrotty disclosed that 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.

Belfast Telegraph

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