Buncrana Pier Tragedy mother hopes inquest is over soon

Seán McGrotty who was in his late 40s his two sons Mark and Evan, and the boys’ grandmother Ruth Daniels died alongside her grandddaughter Jodi Lee

'I just want this to be over' says Buncrana pier tragedy mum

The inquest into the deaths of five members of the one family who died in the Buncrana pier tragedy has got under way this morning.

Sean McGrotty (49), his sons Evan (8) and Mark (12); the boy's grandmother Ruth Daniels (57) and her daughter Jodie Lee Tracey (14), all died when the Audi Q7 vehicle they were in slid off a slipway into Lough Swilly at Buncrana on March 20th past year.

Sean's baby daughter - Rioghnach-Ann was the only survivor.

Louise James - who lost her two sons, her partner, her mother and her sister - is also listed as a witness.

Eyewitness Francis Crawford told the inquest that that by the time the RNLI lifesavers reached the scene the Derry family's auto had disappeared into Lough Swilly.

He said: "The auto was floating, bobbing in the water, 10 to 15 yards from the slipway, and slowly floating, bobbing off to the right of the slipway". Mr Crawford could still hear children screaming from the auto, which "must have been taking on water" all the time.

Mr Crawford had called the Coastguard for help after Sean McGrotty urged him to seek emergency assistance.

He said said it took 12 minutes for the RNLI to arrive.

There was no suggestion the speed of the response was inappropriate.

Green algae had covered the slipway.

The first witness to the inquest in Buncrana added: "It was treacherous to walk on, slippery as ice".

Mr Crawford said that he parked about half way down the slipway and saw a black people carrier about three to four yards off the slipway in the water and nearly parallel to it with the driver's side facing it.

The driver shouted back to him to call the coast guard.

"I said to him: 'Everyone needs to get out now'".

Mr Crawford said he then saw two adult bodies and a child's body float to the surface of the water.

He said he could hear people and children screaming but wasn't sure how many people were in the auto.

Mr Walsh said "take the baby, take the baby" and Mr Crawford thought it was the woman who had arrived with Mr Walsh who took the baby.

As he arrived, Mr McGrotty smashed a window in the auto.

He said at that stage water that had been seeping in turned into a surge.

He asked Mr Walsh could he "please, please" help and Mr Walsh took off his shoes and his clothes down to his boxer shorts. I grabbed him by the hand but he was caught on something.

"I could hear screams and shouting coming from the vehicle", he said.

"The water gushed in and the auto went under the water".

He added: "I had to let go because I was struggling as hard as I could to avoid getting sucked into the water".

It was freezing cold and he suffered cuts to his feet which he was treated for in hospital.

"He said "I know, I know", Mr Crawford recalled.

He said that it had happened about ten times before, but always with single people in the cars who were able to get out.

Mr Crawford's wife, Kay, also told the inquest she could hear screaming from the vehicle. She said she was particularly moved by children who sent their pocket money to support her.

Coroner Denis McCauley will oversee the inquest hearing today, where a jury will be sworn in to hear evidence from 12 depositions.

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