A tragic scene unfolded in County Donegal, Ireland, this weekend as a family of five was killed when their car slipped into the sea from a pier. The accident occurred at Buncrana Pier at about 7:15 p.m. on Sunday. Only one survivor has been reported, a baby girl who is listed in stable condition. Three other children are said to have perished in the vehicle along with two adults.
According to Yahoo News, the family is believed to be residents of Londonderry. Emergency rescue services have confirmed that they have retrieved the bodies of two boys, a man and a woman, and another female.
Officials rushed into action after an alarm was raised in an attempt to save those trapped inside of the car. Two lifeboats, a helicopter, and local fishing boats were dispatched to the scene, but they were unable to save the family in time.
Police do not believe that foul play was involved and are treating the incident as an accident. They believe that the car just slipped into the water.
Councillor Rena Donaghy of Buncrana expressed the sentiments of many present at the scene.
“I’ve been standing at the pier with so many others from the town looking out at blue flashing lights on the water in a state of complete shock. People here can’t believe what they’re hearing, can’t believe what they’re seeing.”
The Daily Mail has provided an in-depth narrative of how the baby was rescued. Davitt Walsh swam out into the harbor to try to help the family when their Audi Q7 went into the water. The father passed the baby out of his broken driver’s side window just a few moments before the vehicle became completely submerged. Walsh tells the story in his own words.
“The father looked at me and he had to make a decision. He could have saved himself because he was out of the car but he went back into his family and I couldn’t do nothing else, the car went down instantly and the whole lot of them went down, it was just so fast. I took the baby back to the shore.”
The last thing that the father said to Walsh was, “Save the baby.”
Officials believe that the father was trying to turn at the end of the pier when the Audi’s wheels failed to grip. The slipway structure of the pier is used to access a ferry that transports across Lough Swilly, and the structure is prone to thick algae build-up.
The victims have been identified as Sean McGrotty, 46, his sons Mark, 12, and Evan, 8, his mother-in-law Ruth Daniels, 57, and her 14-year-old daughter Jodie Lee Daniels. The mother of the family, Louise McGrotty, had been away for the weekend and thus survived.
Eyewitness Francis Crawford became emotional as he stated that he could see Mr. McGrotty shouting for help as the car slid off of the pier and sunk into the sea.
“The man was still shouting to me when the car went down. It was very sad. There was nothing I could do, or nothing anybody could do. Any of the people who could do something were coming as quick as they could and got here in great time and knew what to do. But it was all too late. There was nothing anybody could do. Everybody did what they could and it was too late.”
Crawford says that he could also hear the cries of the children and that that is a memory that will haunt him for a long time.
Louise McGrotty stated that in the midst of the tragedy that her surviving baby is her reason to live. Family, friends, politicians, clergy, and local residents have rallied to her side in an effort to comfort her and provide support.
The infant who survived is identified as 4-month-old Rionaghac-Ann McGrotty. She continues to recover at Letterkenny General Hospital, and her mother was able to visit her on Sunday night.
The Buncrana Pier in County Donegal is a very popular tourist spot which is visited by hundreds of visitors every weekend who come from the nearby town of Derry and from northwest localities.
Jim McGrotty, brother of Sean McGrotty, spoke to the Belfast Telegraph and offered a heartfelt thanks to the man who risked his own life to save Rionaghac-Ann.
“On behalf of the family we want to thank that brave man who swam into the sea and who saved the life of Louise’s baby Rionaghac-Ann, who is only four months old.”
Funeral services for the family lost at sea will be held on Thursday afternoon.
[Image via Shutterstock]