‘Anywhere people and the sea mix the potential is always there for tragedy’

Lough Swilly RNLI team member says local community stunned by deaths


A Lough Swilly RNLI team member says the local community has been stunned by the tragedy at Buncrana pier which saw five members of the same family lose their lives.

“I’ve lived in the area all my life. We’ve had tragedies on the roads, but I’ve never seen a tragedy of this scale on the water,” said John McCarter. “The community here is just stunned and numb.”

Speaking on Highland Radio, Mr McCarter said that “anywhere people and the sea mix ,the potential is always there for tragedy”.

The RNLI had been carrying out exercises on Lough Swilly on Sunday afternoon before the alarm was raised shortly after 7.00pm.

“We came back within minutes when we got the call. We immediately put three boats on the water. The car was very close to shore in about 10 to 12 feet of water. It was totally submerged.

The rescue quickly became a recovery mission, he added. “We administered CPR and brought the people to shore and handed them over to the paramedics, but it was too late for the occupants of the car.”

Mr McCarter described the man who swam out to rescue a two-month-old girl from the car as a hero.

“I’ve heard a number of versions of what happened and I don’t know if the car had submerged at that stage or not, but that man is a hero for going into the water and taking the baby back to shore.”

When asked could the tragedy have been averted if the lifeboats had still been in the area on exercises when the accident happened, Mr McCarter said he did not think it would have made a difference.

“It all happened so quickly. Unfortunately, I don’t think we could have done much to help them,” he said. “Water overwhelms people, inside a car water is very difficult to handle.”

Cars have gone into the water from the pier in the past he said, but this was the first time that people had lost their lives. “Where the sea is involved there will always be difficulties.”

A colleague who is a sub aqua diver had dived down to the car to help retrieve the bodies. “That was a very difficult thing to tackle,” said Mr McCarter.

Mr McCarter said his heart went out to the relatives of the family who had been enjoying a day out and it was awful that it had ended in such tragic circumstances.