Belfast Telegraph

Buncrana pier hero Davitt Walsh defends ex-partner's damages claim

The man who saved a baby during the Buncrana pier tragedy has strongly denied criticising his former partner after she began legal proceedings arising out of the incident.

A British website attributed quotes to Davitt Walsh that are critical of Stephanie Knox. It emerged this week that Ms Knox, a cardiac physiologist, issued legal proceedings for "loss of earnings and other matters" following the tragedy off Buncrana pier in March 2016 in which five people died.

"I wish to make a public statement," Mr Walsh said on his Facebook account.

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

"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."

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Stephanie Knox and Davitt Walsh

Five members of the same family perished in the tragedy including Sean McGrotty, his sons Mark, 11 and eight-year-old Evan, his mother-in-law Ruth Daniels and her teenage daughter Jodie-Lee Tracey.

The tragedy occurred when Mr McGrotty's Audi Q7 jeep slid on “treacherous” algae and slipped into the sea at Lough Swilly on March 20th, 2016.

Mr Walsh, with his then girlfriend Ms Knox, had come on the scene and he swam out. Mr McGrotty had handed the baby out through the window he had smashed with his elbow and Davitt had a grip on the hand of one of the young boys. But the water was gushing into the car "like a wave" and the child seemed to be stuck on something.

"I had to let go," Mr Davitt told the inquest later.

"Save the baby, save my baby," Mr McGrotty had said to him.

The baby - four-month-old Rioghnach-Ann - was the sole survivor of the tragedy.

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

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.

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.

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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