Belfast Telegraph

Man who rescued baby from Donegal pier car 'will never forget faces of the poor family in that car'

By Greg Harkin

A hero footballer who rescued a four-month-old baby from the Buncrana drowning disaster has spoken of how he tried to rescue a second child.

Davitt Walsh (28), a former player with Ballymena United, was caught up in the Co Donegal tragedy after deciding to go for a Sunday evening stroll with his girlfriend Stephanie Knox.

Crowdfunding raises thousands for family of Buncrana pier tragedy victims 

Ms Knox, a cardiac physiotherapist based at Londonderry's Altnagelvin Hospital, spotted the McGrotty family car in difficulty.

Mr Walsh, from Kerrykeel, spoke of the last moments of the tragedy and how dad Sean McGrotty handed him baby Rionaghach-Ann. Choking back tears, Mr Walsh said Sean handed him the baby through the car window, shouting: "Take my child. Help my child."

He said: "It happened so, so fast. I ran down and the local man was there. I know now he was Francis Crawford and he asked me if I could swim, if I could swim to the jeep.

"I asked if there were currents and he said there was but I just stripped down to my underpants to get the best chance of going out and I went in.

"I didn't stop to think. I got out to the car. The man had to smash the window from the inside and all I could hear was the screaming, lots of screaming coming from inside the car.

"I will never forget those screams. It was awful. The man stayed in the car and just said, 'Save the baby'.

"I think he could have saved himself but he wanted to stay with his family and help them.

"I got a grip of another child. I think it was the older boy, about 12 years old but he just got pulled away from me. I don't know how.

"I probably couldn't have saved him and the baby and get back again. I don't know for sure."

Mr Walsh said he pulled the baby away from the car and within seconds the car filled up and sank.

"All I could think of right then was getting that baby to safety, getting that baby to the shore. I was about 40 metres from the shore and I tried to keep the baby's head above the water at all times. The baby was looking at me, her eyes were open."

Mr Walsh, who also played for FAI side Bohemians, had played for his local side Fanad United in the Ulster Senior League earlier on Sunday afternoon.

Girlfriend Ms Knox grabbed the infant as Mr Walsh arrived ashore.

"I thought she was dead because she wasn't making any sounds," said Ms Knox.

"Then she made a little cough. She was so tiny and then I realised she was OK. I took my coat off and wrapped her in it and the ambulance people arrived and took over."

Mr Walsh received specialist counselling yesterday morning after being released from hospital where he was treated for cuts and bruises.

He said he feels guilty he didn't save more people from the car. "I just couldn't get the doors open and neither could they.

"The electrics must have gone once it was in the water," said Mr Walsh.

"I was pulling and I was telling them they had to get out of the car quickly but they couldn't. I was telling them it was going to go down but they just couldn't get out of the car.

"I wanted them all out but there was nothing I could do and there was nothing they could do.

"I just wanted to get them all out but there was nothing I could do. It all just happened so quickly."

Mr Walsh spent a short time with the infant at Letterkenny Hospital.

"That was a very special moment," Mr Walsh said.

"The nurses were very good and that moment is something I will never forget as long as I live. But I will also never forget the faces on those poor people in that car."

His father Billy, a local garda, said he and his family were proud of Mr Walsh, an office manager with a Letterkenny company. "What he did was just like him," he said.

"He's an incredibly generous young man and I feel so proud about what he did."

Source Irish Independent

Irish Independent


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