Belfast Telegraph

Donegal pier horror - enormity of this loss beyond comprehension

By Lindy McDowell

It is a tragedy beyond comprehension. Not just the scale of it, but the speed of it. The utter harrowing, helpless horror of it.

Before the eyes of distressed onlookers a happy family outing down to a scenic pier on a mild spring evening turns to terror.

The sort of ordinary family outing countless other families will have set out on last Sunday.

But here suddenly, in the blink of an eye, catastrophe.

The car is slipping and sliding into the water. Bystanders crying out in alarm, frantically trying to summon help. Only too well you can imagine the panic, the sense of sheer, helpless disbelief….

One eyewitness recounted later: “I was hoping against hope the car would stay and I was watching the car and it started to dip, and all of a sudden it just went down, the whole car and everything stopped.”

Only the baby, Rioghnach-Ann, could be saved.

The four-month-old was handed through the car window with just moments to spare to the selfless hero who plunged into the cold water to try to save life.

By all accounts that man very nearly lost his own in the effort.

But nobody could save the others. Evan, aged only eight, his brother Mark (12), their father Sean McGrotty (49), Sean’s mother-in-law Ruth Daniels, and young Jodi-Lee Daniels, his sister-in-law.

Sean’s wife Louise wasn’t with the group because she had been attending a family party in England and was travelling back that evening. She has lost her husband, her two little sons, her mother and her youngest sister. God alone knows how you deal with such colossal loss. Her grief is beyond imagining.

“Relatives of the dead were contacted overnight,” news bulletins report. What horror, what human distress is encompassed in those few words.

How do you ever, ever get your head around news like that? How do you even break news like that? Somebody had to.

Poignantly, Sean’s brother Jim has described how: “I was sitting at home when news of the tragedy started to emerge last night. My thoughts were for the families of those involved. Little did I realise then that it was my own family members who had died.”

So many close relatives, wider family and friends have been left devastated. The local community has already rallied round them. 

“There has been a constant stream of callers to the house,” said Jim.

That poor, poor family. That poor, poor woman left behind.

There will be arms around them and the heartbroken tears of friends and strangers shed with theirs. 

People here are so very good. We all know that. There is no better part of the world when it comes to offering solace and support and trying in whatever way possible to share the awful burden of loss.

But dear God, the enormity of this loss. It is a tragedy beyond any comprehension.

Belfast Telegraph


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