Belfast Telegraph

Buncrana pier tragedy: Sean McGrotty a 'wonderful partner and father,' says Louise James after verdicts

Slipway an 'accident waiting to happen'

Louise James, the Derry mum who lost her partner, two sons, mother and sister in the Buncrana pier tragedy has said she hopes lessons are learned and paid tribute to Sean McGrotty as a "wonderful" partner and father.

Evan McGrotty, eight, his father Sean, 12-year-old brother Mark, grandmother Ruth Daniels, 59, and her 14-year-old daughter Jodie Lee Daniels died when their SUV sank after sliding off the "slippery as ice" surface in Donegal.

A jury found the five victims died by misadventure following a two-day inquest in Buncrana, Co Donegal, near where the accident happened in March last year.

The jury described it as a "heartbreaking tragedy" and recommended national guidelines for all piers and slipways across Ireland.

A post-mortem examination found that driver of the car Sean McGrotty was more than three times over the legal drink-driving limit, a pathologist told the inquest in Buncrana on Wednesday.

He was found to have consumed 159 milligrams of alcohol per 100 millilitres of blood, when the drink-drive limit is only 50. That could indicate an "element" of intoxication, pathologist Dr Catriona Dillon told an inquest in Buncrana, Co Donegal. However she could not say how this affected his ability on the day.

Mr McGrotty's four-month-old baby Rioghnach-Ann was saved by heroic rescuer Davitt Walsh who entered the freezing waters of Lough Swilly in response to the distressed cries of the children and pleas for help from their father.

Louise James was in Liverpool at the time of the tragedy. The inquest was told she had a "feeling" something terrible had happened at around the time all five perished in Buncrana. She had just arrived back in Northern Ireland at the airport when she was told of the devastating news.

Speaking outside the inquest, family solicitor Owen Galllagher read out a statement on behalf of Louise.

In it, she said: "It is with a heavy heart and great sadness that I have listened to all the evidence that has emerged during the course of this inquest.

"There are simply no words capable of expressing my pain, my disbelief and anger over what happened that favourite day.

"My heart is shattered. Every moment of every day is filled with thoughts of of my beautiful boys Mark and Evan, my mother Ruth, my sister Jodie Lee and my partner Sean.

"The one ray of sunshine in my life is my daughter Rioghnach who survived this horrible tragedy and for that I must once again thank Davitt and all the others who helped to save her on that day."

The statement continued: "I firmly believe the slipway should have been closed to public or else proper warning signs display it was an accident waiting to happen.

"Hopefully lessons will be learned and recommendations implemented.

"Finally regarding Sean. Not withstanding the evidence that has emerged, he was a wonderful partner to me and an adoring father to his children.

"He lived from him.

"And as it has emerged from this inquest he died as he lived - he could have saved himself and chose not to."

Mr Gallagher ended saying Ms James would not be making any further statement and appealed for her to be given her privacy.

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