Buncrana deaths hearing told doors on family’s car could not be opened

Reason for inability of first responders to get into Audi Q7 not revealed at pre-inquest

The slipway at Buncrana Pier after the incident in which five people died in March 2016.  Photograph: Peter Murtagh

The slipway at Buncrana Pier after the incident in which five people died in March 2016. Photograph: Peter Murtagh

 

A pre-inquest hearing into an incident in which five members of the same family drowned off Buncrana has heard first responders could not open their car’s doors.

Sean McGrotty and four members of his extended family died when the Audi Q7 he was driving entered the waters of Lough Swilly in Co Donegal on March 20th, 2016.

A full inquest is due to take place at Buncrana Courthouse in November.

However, a pre-evidential hearing on Wednesday heard how a report by Volkswagen Ireland disclosed the doors of the car could not be opened by first responders when it was in the water. The hearing was not told why this was the case.

The issue was raised by barrister Keith O’Grady, who is acting on behalf of the insurers Allianz, for the late Sean McGrotty.

Mr O’Grady outlined a number of issues he wanted to address before the formal inquest begins. He said he would be reviewing the Volkswagen Ireland report as well as reports by Donegal County Council into their piers and slipways. He would also review other reports by the Road Safety Authority and the Irish Water Safety Authority.

Mr O’Grady asked coroner Denis McCauley to release all 57 draft witness depositions.

“We have to ensure that something like this never happens again,” he said. “I need to hear what the people on the scene heard, saw and what the condition of the place was.”

Coroner Denis McCauley said he did not feel the added depositions could provide anything else to the inquest. He said he would review all depositions again and come back to Mr O’Grady if he felt they merited being included.

The five people who died were Sean McGrotty, his sons Mark (11) and Evan (8), his mother-in-law Ruth Daniels and her teenage daughter Jodie-Lee Tracey.

Mr McGrotty’s baby daughter Rionaghac-Ann was rescued after her father passed her out the window to local man Davitt Walsh.

Members of the McGrotty or Daniels families were not present at the hearing.