Buncrana tragedy: ‘He could have saved himself but chose not to’

A inquest jury returns a verdict of death by misadventure for all five victims

Louise James outside the Lake of Shadows Hotel in Buncrana, Co Donegal after the inquest into the death of five of her family members. Photograph: PA

Louise James outside the Lake of Shadows Hotel in Buncrana, Co Donegal after the inquest into the death of five of her family members. Photograph: PA

 

Sean McGrotty, who died along with four family members in Buncrana, Co Donegal last year, could have saved himself but chose not to, his partner Louise James said on Thursday evening.

She was speaking after an inquest jury unanimously ruled all five victims died by drowning and that death was due to misadventure.

Mr McGrotty (49) died along with his sons Mark (12), and Evan (8), his mother in law Ruth Daniels (59) and Ruth’s daughter Jodie Lee Daniels (14) when his Audi SUV 4X4 vehicle slid on “treacherous” algae and slipped into the sea at Lough Swilly on Sunday March 20th last year.

The couple’s baby, Rioghnach-Ann, was the sole survivor of the tragedy when she was rescued by Kerrykeel Davitt Walsh.

Ms James was returning from a hen party in England when the tragedy occured on March 20th, 2016.

Solicitor Robert Anderson read out a statement on behalf of Sean McGrotty’s partner Louise James after the inquests on Thursday evening.

Ms James lost her partner, her two sons, her mother and her sister in the Buncrana drowning tragedy.

Mr Anderson with Ms James standing beside him said:

“It is with a heavy heart and great sadness that I have listened to the evidence that has emerged during the course of this inquest. There are simply no words capable of expressing my pain, my disbelief and indeed my anger over what happened on that fateful day.

“My heart was shattered. Every moment of every day is filled with thoughts of my beautiful boys, Mark and Evan, my mother Ruth, my sister Jodie Lee and my partner Sean.

Seán McGrotty, who was in his late 40s, his two sons Mark (12) and Evan (8), and the boys’ grandmother Ruth Daniels (59) died alongside her grandddaughter Jodi-Lee (14).
Seán McGrotty, who was in his late 40s, his two sons Mark (12) and Evan (8), and the boys’ grandmother Ruth Daniels (59) died alongside her grandddaughter Jodi-Lee (14).

“The one ray of sunshine in my life is my beautiful daughter Rioghnach who survived this horrible tragedy and for that I must once again thank Davitt (Walsh) and all those others who helped to save her on that day.

“I firmly believe that the slipway should have been closed to the general public or else proper warning signs displayed, as it was an accident waiting to happen.

“Hopefully lessons will be learned and the recommendations made following this inquest will be implemented.

“Finally regarding Sean, notwithstanding the evidence that has emerged I wish to add that he was a wonderful partner to me, and an adoring father to his children. He lived for them.

“And it is clear from what this inquest has heard that in fact he died as he lived in that he could have saved himself but chose not to.”

The scene of the tragedy at Buncrana pier, Co Donegal
The scene of the tragedy at Buncrana pier, Co Donegal

Earlier, an inquest jury has returned a verdict of death by misadventure in the case of Sean McGrotty, one of five people who died in the Buncrana drowning tragedy on Lough Swilly in March last year.

The jury of five men and four women in issuing its verdict recommended that the Irish Water Safety organisation should play a prominent advisory role in trying to prevent any such future tragedies.

The jury found that Mr McGrotty died by drowning and that it was a case of death by misadventure.

The jury members offered their sympathy to all the bereaved and described the disaster as a “heartbreaking tragedy”.

The coroner Dr Denis McCauley is now concluding the inquests into the remaining four deaths at the Lake of Shadows Hotel in Buncrana.

Dr McCauley in responding to the verdict relating to Mr McGrotty said people could sympathise and empathise with all the victims and those who suffered such loss but they could not imagine how the bereaved feel.

Dr McCauley praised the emergency services and said their response time in arriving at the scene at Buncrana pier was “incredible”.

His words were echoed by Garda Inspector David Murphy who said first responders and the emergency services when “confronted with unspeakable tragedy” acted with “commitment, compassion and sensitivity”.

Insp Murphy also praised Davitt Walsh who risked his life by swimming out to the sinking car to save Sean McGrotty and his partner Louise James’s four-month-old daughter Rioghnach-Ann.

He said Mr Walsh acted with “selfless bravery” and was an “ordinary man who did an extraordinary thing”.

At the time of writing the jury returned the same verdict for Ruth Daniels, that she died by drowning and that her death was caused by misadventure. It is now considering the remaining three inquests.