Heroic Davitt Walsh defends ex-girlfriend over Buncrana claim

‘Stephanie has suffered extreme trauma since the tragic events of that horrible day’

Five people – 49-year-old Sean McGrotty, his sons Mark (12) and Evan (8), his mother-in-law Ruth Daniels and her daughter Jodie-Lee (14) – died when Mr McGrotty’s 4X4 slipped into the sea at Lough Swilly, Co Donegal, on March 20th, 2016.

Five people – 49-year-old Sean McGrotty, his sons Mark (12) and Evan (8), his mother-in-law Ruth Daniels and her daughter Jodie-Lee (14) – died when Mr McGrotty’s 4X4 slipped into the sea at Lough Swilly, Co Donegal, on March 20th, 2016.

 

The man who rescued the only survivor of the Buncrana pier drowning tragedy has defended his ex-girlfriend after she made a claim for damages against the estate of one of the deceased.

In a statement published on Facebook, Davitt Walsh said that he had the “utmost respect” for Stephanie Knox.

“Stephanie has suffered extreme trauma since the tragic events of that horrible day in Buncrana,” he said.

Five people – 49-year-old Sean McGrotty, his sons Mark (12) and Evan (8), his mother-in-law Ruth Daniels and her daughter Jodie-Lee (14), who were all from Derry – died when Mr McGrotty’s Audi SUV 4X4 vehicle slid on “treacherous” algae and slipped into the sea at Lough Swilly in Co Donegal on 20th March 2016.

Mr Walsh swam out to the sinking car to rescue the McGrotty’s baby daughter, four-month-old Rioghnach-Ann.

His then girlfriend, Ms Knox, who is a cardiac physiologist, took the baby from Mr Walsh and brought her to their car to warm her up while he returned to the water to try and save other members of the family.

She has lodged a claim for compensation against Donegal County Council and Mr McGrotty’s estate.

However she told independent.ie that she believed the claim was being made against Donegal County Council and an insurance company.

Mr Walsh, who received an award for bravery following the tragedy, also said that he had been misquoted in several articles which claimed he had criticised Ms Knox.

Davitt Walsh and and his then girlfriend Stephanie Knox. On that fateful evening Mr Walsh and Ms Knox had been walking nearby when they saw the McGrottys’ car in the water. File photograph: North West Newspix
Davitt Walsh and and his then girlfriend Stephanie Knox. On that fateful evening Mr Walsh and Ms Knox had been walking nearby when they saw the McGrottys’ car in the water. File photograph: North West Newspix

“I have not given an interview to any newspaper or media source,” he said.“I have been wrongly misquoted, I strongly refute anything that has been printed in my name. I have moved on with my life since that day, in the best way that I can. Please respect my privacy,” said Mr Walsh.

Ms Knox’s sister Laura said on Facebook that her sister’s life had been made a “living hell” because of “bullying” and name-calling on social media.

“Stephanie was informed by gardaí that people who were on the pier that day were claiming so Stephanie went to her solicitor for advice,” wrote Laura Knox.

“Stephanie is not the type of person that people are making her out to be all over Facebook and anybody who actually knows her would know this. Stephanie would never be as spiteful to claim off an 86-year-old man. She was under the impression that the claim was against Donegal [County] Council and due to the same reason that the family were claiming for – algae being on the slipway and other reasons. That day has ruined her life forever, witnessing five people die in front of her and her life will never be the same,” she said.

Louise James – the partner of Sean McGrotty, mother of Mark and Evan, daughter of Ruth Daniels and sister to Jodie-Lee – has already taken a High Court case against Donegal County Council and the estate of her late partner.

She lodged papers in the High Court in June naming the council and Declan Hegarty – the solicitor representing Mr McGrotty’s estate – as defendants.

The inquest into the deaths, in November 2017, returned a verdict in each case of death by drowning and misadventure.