THE President of Ireland has led tributes after five people died following a tragic car accident in Co. Donegal at the weekend.
The fatal incident occurred on Sunday on Buncrana pier at around 7.30pm, when police believe the car carrying six members of an extended family from Derry slipped from the pier into the water.
A four-month-old baby girl was rescued by a bystander and taken to Letterkenny University Hospital by ambulance, where she was said to be in a stable condition.
Irish President Michael D Higgins paid tribute to the victims – a man, woman and three children who are all members of the same extended family.
“I have heard with the greatest sadness of the terrible loss of life of a family in Buncrana,” he said. “My heart goes out to the family and loved ones of Sean McGrotty, Mark McGrotty, 12, Evan McGrotty, 8, Ruth Daniels and Jodie Lee Daniels 14.
“Sabina and I wish to express our deepest sympathies to the family and their communities. Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam.”
A major rescue operation by gardaí, members of the Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) and emergency services led to the car, thought to be registered to the North of Ireland, being pulled from the water at 9pm on Sunday.
Gardaí confirmed that five bodies had been recovered from the water and taken to Letterkenny University Hospital, where post mortems are expected to take place this week.
Bishop Donal McKeown, Bishop of Derry expressed his deepest sympathy to a Derry woman, named locally Louise McGrotty, who has lost five of her family members.
“I have visited expressing sympathy, on behalf of the people of this diocese, to a local woman and family circle who have lost so many family members,” he said. “There are no adequate words in the face of such pain. My thoughts and prayers are with those who are bereaved, in particular a grieving mother.”
It was widely reported that Mrs McGrotty was returning from a family occasion in England when the tragedy happened.
Speaking to The Irish Post Sinn Féin councilor for Inishowen Jack Murray – who lives closed to the scene of the tragedy – said that the community has been left shattered.
“The community has suffered many tragedies in recent years, and now after this, it’s devastating.”
Garda Superintendent Colm Nevin said that the incident is being treated as a very tragic accident.
“I would like to thank the public who came to the assistance of these people in their time of distress, particularly the
local person that took the baby from the vehicle,” he said. “No doubt he did display exceptional bravery.”
Eyewitness Francis Crawford spoke to BBC Radio Foyle about the heroic actions of a passerby that saved the baby girl’s life.
“I phoned 999, I explained there was a car in the water and there’s a family in it that’s going to be sinking,” he said. “A
fella came over and I asked him if he could swim, he stripped off to his underwear and headed out and it was great that he did.
“He was totally exhausted, I think if he had another five yards to go I don’t see how he could have made it. He was
shouting ‘grab the baby, grab the baby’. He was taken to hospital, he was cut and different things but very heroic and he saved the wee baby’s life.”
RNLI Operations Manager John McArthur said crews were at the scene of the tragedy within minutes, but the rescue operation soon turned into recovery.
“We got all of our boats on the water straight away to see what could be done, but it appeared the car had gone down the slipway and down into the water,” he said. “There were six people on board. One had managed to pass a young child out through the window as the car slid into the water.”
Upon hearing the news, Northern Ireland Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness said: “Very sad news of fatalities in an incident at Buncrana pier. Thoughts are with relatives of those involved and rescue services.”