Belfast Telegraph

Buncrana Pier tragedy: I could hear them screaming from the car, witness tells inquest

The inquest into the Buncrana pier tragedy which killed five people, heard from a witness who described how those in the sinking vehicle screamed for their lives.

Evan McGrotty, aged eight, died alongside his 12-year-old brother Mark, his father Sean, 46, grandmother Ruth Daniels, 57, and her 14-year-old daughter, Jodie Lee Daniels, when their SUV sank after sliding off a "slippery as ice" slipway in Buncrana, Co Donegal, in March 2016.

Emergency services called after a car plunged off a pier in Ireland arrived within 12 minutes, an eye witness has said.

By the time the RNLI lifesavers reached the scene the Londonderry family's car had disappeared into Lough Swilly and the victims were floating in the water, Francis Crawford told an inquest into the tragedy.

There was no suggestion the speed of the response was inappropriate.

He added: "The car was floating, bobbing in the water, 10 to 15 yards from the slipway, and slowly floating, bobbing off to the right of the slipway.

"I could still hear people and the child screaming from the car, all the time the car must have been taking on water.

"I was hoping that the emergency services would arrive and the car would not go down."

He added: "I could hear sirens, the nose of the car dipped...and the car sank to the bottom."

Mr Crawford had called the Coastguard for help after Sean McGrotty urged him to seek emergency assistance.

The witness said it took 12 minutes for the RNLI to arrive.

Green algae had covered the slipway.

The first witness to the inquest in Buncrana added: "It was treacherous to walk on, slippery as ice."

The only survivor was a baby girl.

The child's mother, Louise James, has said the infant was her only reason to go on living.

Former footballer Davitt Walsh swam out into the harbour in an effort to save the six occupants of the Audi Q7.

Sean McGrotty handed his four-month-old daughter Rionaghac-Ann to Mr Walsh through the broken driver's side window just moments before the vehicle sank.

Mr Walsh has been awarded a gold medal for bravery at sea.

Mr Crawford said Mr Walsh was too exhausted to go back into the water to attempt to reach the other victims.

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