Buncrana pier drownings: Hundreds attend month’s mind

Mark, Evan and Sean McGrotty, and Jodie Lee and Ruth Daniels died in 4x4 on March 20th

Hundreds of people gathered in Derry tonight to remember five members of one family who drowned last month in a car off a slipway in Buncrana.

Hundreds attended the Holy Family Church for the month’s mind Mass in memory of those who died when their car skidded on algae on the slipway at the pier in the town before plunging into Lough Swilly.

Louise James (35), who lost her sons Mark McGrotty (12) and Evan McGrotty (8), her sister Jodie Lee Daniels (14), her mother Ruth Daniels (59) and her partner Sean McGrotty (49) - who was the driver of the 4x4 vehicle - was the chief mourner.

Just half an hour before the March 20th tragedy, Louise had spoken to her sons Mark and Evan to tell them she was looking forward to seeing them when she returned home from a family function in Liverpool.


The only survivor of the tragedy was Louise and Sean’s baby daughter Rionaghac-Ann McGrotty (four months).

Davitt Walsh

She was rescued by former League of Ireland footballer Davitt Walsh, from Kerrykeel in Co Donegal.

Mr Walsh had been walking along the pier in Buncrana with his girlfriend Stephanie Knox, a cardiographer at Altnagelvin Hospital in Derry, when the tragedy unfolded in front of them.

Mr Walsh swam 30m from the pier to the sinking family vehicle when Sean McGrotty handed over to him his baby daughter Rionaghac-Ann, just seconds before the vehicle sank, drowning all five of its remaining occupants.

Ms Knox entered the sea off the pier and took the baby from her boyfriend, who was struggling to cope with the conditions.

She carried Rionaghac-Ann to her boyfriend’s car, where she turned on the heater and resuscitated the baby.

Missed by many

At the month’s mind Mass, parish priest Fr Paddy O’Kane, who had officiated at the five funerals last month, told the congregation the five victims were missed by many people.

“We come here to offer up this Mass in sadness because we miss Mark, Evan, Jodie Lee, Ruth and Sean,” he said.

“Whenever someone dies during Holy Week, usually there is no Requiem Mass during Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Holy Saturday of Holy Week. That is why this Requiem Mass is taking place tonight.

“After the funerals last month I asked Louise when she wanted the Requiem Mass to take place and she replied ‘Let us go for the month’s mind’ as an opportunity for us to pray for her family members and as an opportunity for us to console members of the bereaved families.

“We ask God to give you the peace only he can give amid your feelings of confusion, sadness and of grief,” he said.

Those attending included bereaved relatives, members of the emergency services from both sides of the Border, school co-pupils of the three children who died and the choirs of St Mary’s College and St Eithne’s primary school.