Pre-evidential hearing held in Buncrana Pier tragedy inquest

Coroner says he wants to discuss what people should do if their car enters water

A pre-evidential hearing into one of Ireland’s worst coastal tragedies in which five people drowned has heard the inquest will take two days and will hear from at least 12 witnesses.

Five members of the family perished when a jeep slipped off Buncrana Pier and into Lough Swilly in Co Donegal on March 20th, 2016.

An infant baby girl, Rionaghac-Ann, was saved when her father passed her out the window to local man Davitt Walsh, who came to the family’s aid.

Those who lost their lives were Seán McGrotty, his sons Mark (11) and Evan (8), his mother-in-law Ruth Daniels and her teenage daughter Jodie-Lee Tracey.


The hearing was formally opened on Friday by the coroner for Donegal, Dr Denis McCauley.

Dr McCauley said the aim of the hearing was to promote an effective process and to prevent an adjournment in the inquest. He said he intended to hold the inquest over two days on November 22nd and 23rd.

Among those present was Michael Staines, solicitor for Donegal County Council, Eoin Armstrong for the motor insurer, and Inspector David Murphy for An Garda Síochána.

Members of the family of the late Seán McGrotty, who was driving the vehicle when it slipped into the water, were also present.

Dr McCauley revealed how there were 69 draft depositions taken following the tragedy from local people in the area at the time of the tragedy. However, he estimated he has whittled this down to 12 depositions which will be heard during the inquest.

He said “this was a terrible tragedy and having looked at a lot of the evidence, I think because of the scope of the inquest I would propose is that we have to look a the events of the night and what actually happened.

“We should always look and fully explore the facts of the case and I also propose that we look at the piers and slipways of Donegal and get as much information as we can about that.”

He said he had also contacted the Irish Water Safety Authority and the Road Safety Authority of Ireland in relation to the inquest.

He said he would like to be able to discuss what people should do in relation to situations when their cars may enter water.

He had also contacted car manufacturer Audi, but he had not heard back from them.

Solicitor for Donegal County Council Mr Staines said a report into piers and slipways in Co Donegal was currently being undertaken and would be completed by the time the formal inquest takes place.