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Pier at centre of Buncrana car plunge deaths had seen similar incidents, inquest told

Donegal pier tragedy - heartbreak for McGrotty and Daniels families [photos] Close

Evan McGrotty, aged eight, died alongside his father Sean McGrotty (49), 12-year-old brother Mark, grandmother Ruth Daniels, 59, and her 14-year-old daughter, Jodie Lee Daniels, when their SUV sank after sliding off a "slippery as ice" slipway in Buncrana in March 2016.

Evan McGrotty, aged eight, died alongside his father Sean McGrotty (49), 12-year-old brother Mark, grandmother Ruth Daniels, 59, and her 14-year-old daughter, Jodie Lee Daniels, when their SUV sank after sliding off a "slippery as ice" slipway in Buncrana in March 2016.

Louise McGrotty with baby Rioghnach-Ann, who survived the tragedy, and son Evan (8), who lost his life

Louise McGrotty with baby Rioghnach-Ann, who survived the tragedy, and son Evan (8), who lost his life

Jodie Lee Daniels

Jodie Lee Daniels

Remains of the five members of the same family who drowned at Buncrana pier are taken to the family home on Tuesday morning. Photo: Joe Boland / Press Eye

Remains of the five members of the same family who drowned at Buncrana pier are taken to the family home on Tuesday morning. Photo: Joe Boland / Press Eye

Sean McGrotty

Sean McGrotty

Proud granny Ruth Daniels gives Mark and Evan McGrotty a hug

Proud granny Ruth Daniels gives Mark and Evan McGrotty a hug

Sean McGrotty (49) with son Mark (12)

Sean McGrotty (49) with son Mark (12)

Ruth Daniels (59) with daughter Jodi-Lee (14)

Ruth Daniels (59) with daughter Jodi-Lee (14)

Sean McGrotty and his two sons Evan and Mark died at the scene. His partner Louise wasn’t present at the time of the tragedy, but her baby Rioghnach-Ann, whom she is cradling here, was rescued

Sean McGrotty and his two sons Evan and Mark died at the scene. His partner Louise wasn’t present at the time of the tragedy, but her baby Rioghnach-Ann, whom she is cradling here, was rescued

Remains of the five members of the same family who drowned at Buncrana pier are taken to the family home on Tuesday morning. Photo: Joe Boland / Press Eye

Remains of the five members of the same family who drowned at Buncrana pier are taken to the family home on Tuesday morning. Photo: Joe Boland / Press Eye

Jodi-Lee playing with nephew Evan

Jodi-Lee playing with nephew Evan

Remains of the five members of the same family who drowned at Buncrana pier are taken to the family home on Tuesday morning. Photo: Joe Boland / Press Eye

Remains of the five members of the same family who drowned at Buncrana pier are taken to the family home on Tuesday morning. Photo: Joe Boland / Press Eye

The family’s Q7 which slid into Lough Swilly

The family’s Q7 which slid into Lough Swilly

Buncrana pier tragedy: Former Ballymena United footballer Davitt Walsh heroically dived into the water and saved baby. Image: RTE News

Buncrana pier tragedy: Former Ballymena United footballer Davitt Walsh heroically dived into the water and saved baby. Image: RTE News

Mark (12) and eight-year-old Evan.

Mark (12) and eight-year-old Evan.

The scene at the pier in Buncrana Co Donegal. Picture Colm Lenaghan/  Pacemaker

The scene at the pier in Buncrana Co Donegal. Picture Colm Lenaghan/ Pacemaker

The scene at the pier in Buncrana Co Donegal. Picture Margaret McLaughlin

The scene at the pier in Buncrana Co Donegal. Picture Margaret McLaughlin

The scene at the pier in Buncrana Co Donegal. Picture Margaret McLaughlin

The scene at the pier in Buncrana Co Donegal. Picture Margaret McLaughlin

Sean McGrotty

Sean McGrotty

The scene at the pier in Buncrana Co Donegal. Picture Margaret McLaughlin

The scene at the pier in Buncrana Co Donegal. Picture Margaret McLaughlin

The scene at the pier in Buncrana Co Donegal. Picture Margaret McLaughlin

The scene at the pier in Buncrana Co Donegal. Picture Margaret McLaughlin

Ruth Daniels

Ruth Daniels

The scene at the pier in Buncrana Co Donegal. Picture Colm Lenaghan/  Pacemaker

The scene at the pier in Buncrana Co Donegal. Picture Colm Lenaghan/ Pacemaker

Jodie Lee Daniels.

Jodie Lee Daniels.

The scene at the pier in Buncrana Co Donegal. Picture Colm Lenaghan/  Pacemaker

The scene at the pier in Buncrana Co Donegal. Picture Colm Lenaghan/ Pacemaker

Jodie-Lee Daniels.

Jodie-Lee Daniels.

Photopress Belfast

Martin McGuinness at the pier in Buncrana Co Donegal. Picture Colm Lenaghan/  Pacemaker

Martin McGuinness at the pier in Buncrana Co Donegal. Picture Colm Lenaghan/ Pacemaker

Jodie Lee Daniels

Jodie Lee Daniels

Photopress Belfast

Garda Superintendent Colm Nevin speaks to the media.
 Picture Colm Lenaghan/  Pacemaker

Garda Superintendent Colm Nevin speaks to the media. Picture Colm Lenaghan/ Pacemaker

John McCarthy from the RNLI at the Pier in Buncrana Co Donegal. Picture Colm Lenaghan/  Pacemaker

John McCarthy from the RNLI at the Pier in Buncrana Co Donegal. Picture Colm Lenaghan/ Pacemaker

Flowers left  at the Scene at the Pier in Buncrana Co Donegal. Picture Colm Lenaghan/  Pacemaker

Flowers left at the Scene at the Pier in Buncrana Co Donegal. Picture Colm Lenaghan/ Pacemaker

Flowers left  at the Scene at the Pier in Buncrana Co Donegal. Picture Colm Lenaghan/  Pacemaker

Flowers left at the Scene at the Pier in Buncrana Co Donegal. Picture Colm Lenaghan/ Pacemaker

Jodie Lee Daniels

Jodie Lee Daniels

Photopress Belfast

Francis Crawford Who raised the alarm,  at the Scene at the Pier in Buncrana Co Donegal, after Five people, including children, have died after a car went off a pier. Picture Colm Lenaghan/  Pacemaker

Francis Crawford Who raised the alarm, at the Scene at the Pier in Buncrana Co Donegal, after Five people, including children, have died after a car went off a pier. Picture Colm Lenaghan/ Pacemaker

Francis Crawford Who raised the alarm,  at the Scene at the Pier in Buncrana Co Donegal, after Five people, including children, have died after a car went off a pier. Picture Colm Lenaghan/  Pacemaker

Francis Crawford Who raised the alarm, at the Scene at the Pier in Buncrana Co Donegal, after Five people, including children, have died after a car went off a pier. Picture Colm Lenaghan/ Pacemaker

Garda at the Scene at the Pier in Buncrana Co Donegal, after Five people, including children, have died after a car went off a pier.  Picture Colm Lenaghan/  Pacemaker

Garda at the Scene at the Pier in Buncrana Co Donegal, after Five people, including children, have died after a car went off a pier. Picture Colm Lenaghan/ Pacemaker

Francis Crawford Who raised the alarm,  at the Scene at the Pier in Buncrana Co Donegal, after Five people, including children, have died after a car went off a pier. Picture Presseye

Francis Crawford Who raised the alarm, at the Scene at the Pier in Buncrana Co Donegal, after Five people, including children, have died after a car went off a pier. Picture Presseye

Francis Crawford Who raised the alarm,  at the Scene at the Pier in Buncrana Co Donegal, after Five people, including children, have died after a car went off a pier. Picture Presseye

Francis Crawford Who raised the alarm, at the Scene at the Pier in Buncrana Co Donegal, after Five people, including children, have died after a car went off a pier. Picture Presseye

Francis Crawford Who raised the alarm,  at the Scene at the Pier in Buncrana Co Donegal, after Five people, including children, have died after a car went off a pier. Picture Joe Bolan / Press Eye

Francis Crawford Who raised the alarm, at the Scene at the Pier in Buncrana Co Donegal, after Five people, including children, have died after a car went off a pier. Picture Joe Bolan / Press Eye

Tributes left at the scene of the tragedy. Picture Colm Lenaghan/  Pacemaker

Tributes left at the scene of the tragedy. Picture Colm Lenaghan/ Pacemaker

Emergency services on the pier at Buncrana after yesterday’s tragic accident

Emergency services on the pier at Buncrana after yesterday’s tragic accident

Rescue services at the pier in Buncrana where a family of five perished after their car slide into Loch Swilly

Rescue services at the pier in Buncrana where a family of five perished after their car slide into Loch Swilly

The pier in daylight

The pier in daylight

Algae on the slipway which would have made it difficult for the vehicle to get any traction

Algae on the slipway which would have made it difficult for the vehicle to get any traction

An Audi Q7 like the one in which the family got trapped

An Audi Q7 like the one in which the family got trapped

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Evan McGrotty, aged eight, died alongside his father Sean McGrotty (49), 12-year-old brother Mark, grandmother Ruth Daniels, 59, and her 14-year-old daughter, Jodie Lee Daniels, when their SUV sank after sliding off a "slippery as ice" slipway in Buncrana in March 2016.

Three similar incidents have happened on a pier where a car plunged into the sea and killed five people in Ireland, a rescue worker said.

John O'Raw, a crew member from the RNLI, dived to the vehicle when it was submerged around three metres underwater in Buncrana, Co Donegal, in March last year.

He was unable to open the doors and a smashed but intact driver's window presented a hazard which prevented him from entering the car.

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 a "slippery as ice" slipway.

Mr O'Raw told an inquest: "I am aware of other incidents that have occurred there. I am personally aware probably of three incidents over a 17-year career."

He reached the car around 40 minutes after the first emergency response.

Mr O Raw said a window on the driver's side had been broken but was intact and bowed inwards, creating an obstacle to him entering the Audi to check for casualties in the back seats.

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He said: "I did not understand what I saw at the time."

He agreed the window may have been bent when the driver Sean McGrotty sat on it during the last moments before the car sank. Other evidence has shown Mr McGrotty broke the window in a bid to help his family escape.

A bid by a rescuer to save one of the victims failed when he "got stuck" on something, separate evidence before this week's inquest in Buncrana showed.

The only survivor from the Londonderry family was a baby girl.

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

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

Mr Walsh tried to save another child, but said he seemed to "get stuck" on something.

The vehicle was found during a technical examination to have been in serviceable condition before the accident.

The 2006 vehicle had laminated windows and technical expert Garda Damien Mulkearns said that affected how glass behaved after it was shattered.

It will take the same force to break as unlaminated glass but normal panes will shatter into a thousand pieces rather than staying together, the witness said.

The garda said when it had been treated it would turn "into a sheet of smashed glass" but may be held together by the lamination.

The driver's window was only a third down.

Garda Mulkearns agreed it would remain supported by the window rims.

He said: "It would certainly take added effort to remove it."

He could not say at what point the car's electronics failed.

He said the vehicle weighed about 3,200 kg.

A technical expert representing Audi, Gerard Boyle, said when the control unit became wet it would have shut down and the door would have been left in its original condition, locked or unlocked.

Other evidence suggested the car must have been locked at the time of the accident since rescuers were not able to get the door open, the inquest was told.

Doors can be set to lock when the car is driven, as an anti-theft measure.

Audi asserted in a report that electronics should work for several minutes in water.

Mr Boyle said the firm did not ask to examine the car after the accident and could not comment on how its doors behaved during the incident. Testing in water only began on later models.

He said if the door handle was used from the inside it should have opened.

"That is how the door should work."

He was unable to comment on the vehicle in question.

Audi's report said: "The panic of occupants of the vehicle must also be taken into consideration."

Mr Boyle said once the 4x4 lost friction with the slipway it would behave uncontrollably.

Handbrakes, footbrakes, gearing would not have made any difference, he said, adding: "The vehicle can only work within its capabilities."


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