Belfast Telegraph

Pier tragedy showed us how life is fragile

Editor's Viewpoint

Some 20 months ago there was widespread shock at the news of a SUV vehicle sliding down a slipway at Buncrana pier resulting in the loss of five lives.

The driver, Sean McGrotty, and four other family members perished when the vehicle sank so rapidly in the icy waters that they could not be rescued.

The only survivor was a tiny baby who was heroically rescued by a passerby, Davitt Walsh, who swam to the vehicle. The baby was handed to him through an open window before the waters closed in and Davitt, with great skill and courage, managed to bring the baby back to safety.

It was one of the most disturbing family tragedies of recent times and there were widespread messages of sympathy and prayers for all the wider surviving family.

Today, however, there is another feeling of shock following the inquest evidence that Mr McGrotty was three times over the drink-drive limit.

The pathologist said she could not tell what level of impairment the driver may have had and that this depended on whether he was an habitual drinker and how far he was accustomed to alcohol.

Nevertheless, most people will ask why a man with that degree of alcohol in his system was behind the wheel of a large vehicle with his family on board and they may also reflect that he was not best-placed to deal with the sudden tragedy as it swiftly unfolded.

However, this is not a time for harsh judgments, but rather to reflect on the huge tragedy which engulfed the family and the wider community.

The details of what happened were stark enough but, as often happens, some of these appalling incidents bring out the best in other people.

The undoubted hero was Mr Walsh, who saved a baby's life and thereby brought one shaft of light into an extremely dark situation.

The worst of times can bring out the best in other people nearer home and we have seen this time and again at first hand, and often most conspicuously during the Troubles.

The Buncrana tragedy was so disturbing that it made many people reflect on their own safety and that of their loved ones.

Disaster usually strikes with the most devastating speed and the message is for all of us to maintain the utmost vigilance when we are in charge of a vehicle near the water, or at any time.

Human mistakes are made, but some people do not get a second chance.

Belfast Telegraph

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