Belfast Telegraph

Buncrana Pier tragedy: Cost to clear algae was 400 euro

It would have cost 400 euro to clear algae from Buncrana Pier, the inquest into the Buncrana Pier tragedy has heard.

The treacherous bloom was as "slippery as ice" when the family car slid into the water last year, an eye witness said.

No barrier prevented people from accessing the slipway and no signs were displayed warning specifically of the danger.

The inquest is hearing details of the incident which saw the five people die after their car plunged into the water.

A risk assessment had not been carried out on the pier for 15 years, lawyer Keith O'Grady said.

He added: "In 2016 you have open access to a slipway covered in algae and in 2017 you have the slipway power-washed, cleaned, in excellent condition, and the gate closed and nobody can go down."

John McLaughlin, a director at Donegal County Council, said the purpose of cleaning the slipway was to facilitate a ferry which used it during the summer but not in the winter.

The council commissioned consultants to draw up a report following last year's tragedy.

Mr McLaughlin added: "The 400 euros talks about removing it (algae) once but it does not say the frequency of removal so that will be a matter for Donegal County Council and the total cost but certainly 400 euros seems low."

He said during winter the slipway was rarely used.

He added that drivers using the flat section of the pier had a good view of the algae closer to the watermark.

Following an investigation the intention is to keep the gates open.

They were installed to control boarding of the ferry.

He said the council was doing everything in its power within its budget to ensure no repeat of the tragedy.

John Leech, chief executive of Irish Water Safety - which raises awareness, said most people were not well-informed about the sea.

He added: "You do need to inform people of these risks, use various types of signage.

"Slipways are used for ferries, and bringing your car on to a slipway is a dangerous thing to do and should not be done."

He said safety information should be displayed to warn tourists and others at Buncrana that they may slip.

"Whatever actions we take should be proportionate to that risk, that we should be seen to do everything that is reasonable to prevent accidents."

He said it was the only accident of its kind that he had encountered in more than 17 years in the field.

He added it would not be normal to wash slipways each month and many around the country only had regular users.

He said: "This (Buncrana) is used quite a lot for recreational use, so you are going to have to consider increasing the number of washes."

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