Friday 30 September 2016

'I look forward to being a part of beautiful baby Rioghnach-Ann's life' - Buncrana hero Davitt Walsh

Davitt Walsh (28) 'overwhelmed' by messages of support he has received since tragedy

Cathal McMahon and Denise Calnan

Published 05/04/2016 | 16:42

Hero Davitt Walsh holding baby Rioghnach. (Photo courtesy of Derry News )
Hero Davitt Walsh holding baby Rioghnach. (Photo courtesy of Derry News )

Buncrana hero Davitt Walsh has said he is looking forward to being a part of the life of "beautiful" Baby Rioghnach-Ann.

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The 28-year-old saved the life of the four-month old baby after jumping into the freezing Lough Swilly after the car in which her family were travelling in went underwater.

Sean McGrotty, 46, his sons Evan (8) and 12-year-old Mark, Ruth Daniels (57) and 14-year-old Jodie Lee Daniels all drowned in the tragedy.

Davitt Walsh, from Kerrykeel in Co Donegal said he has reflected since the tragic events in Buncrana, Co Donegal last month and said he is "overwhelmed" by all the messages of support he received.

Davitt Walsh will attend the funerals of the five victims of the Buncrana pier tragedy in Derry today. Photo: Joe Boland
Davitt Walsh will attend the funerals of the five victims of the Buncrana pier tragedy in Derry today. Photo: Joe Boland

Mr Walsh said it was people's "kindness and sincerity" that gave him strength.

He said he is looking forward to watching Rioghnach-Ann grow up and paid tribute to her mother Louise.

"Louise has been an inspiration to me and a great comfort, she is an exceptional woman," he said.

"Rioghnach-Ann is a beautiful baby and I look forward to being a part of her life and to see her growing up. Sean, Mark, Evan, Ruth and Jodie-Lee are now together in heaven. God Bless R.I.P."

Unimaginable grief: Louise James with partner Sean McGrotty, sons Mark and Evan and baby Rioghnach-Ann who was saved Photo: Family Handout/PA Wire
Unimaginable grief: Louise James with partner Sean McGrotty, sons Mark and Evan and baby Rioghnach-Ann who was saved Photo: Family Handout/PA Wire

Writing on his Facebook page, Mr Walsh wrote: "While reflecting today on all that has happened, I would like to say that I am overwhelmed by all the messages and posts that I have received.

"It's impossible for me to reply to everyone individually but I have read them all.

"It's your kindness and sincerity that has given me great strength and enabled me to cope over these last days. So I would like to thank you all so much for this!"

Speaking to Independent.ie this afternoon Sean McGrotty's brother Jim explained that Mr Walsh will be part of their lives forever.

"As a family we will be keeping in touch with Davitt. He is inextricably linked to Rioghnach-Ann and Louise.

"Davitt is a good fella and he couldn’t do enough for Louise."

He continued: "Davitt is part of her life. And Louise wants him to be part of Rioghnach-Ann's life. They would be in touch regularly. Me and the brothers want to go down and meet Davitt at his home and we will do that shortly."

He explained that his family is struggling to deal with the tragedy and his ageing father, who returned from Canada for the funerals.

"My dad has lost his wife, a daughter, a son and two grandsons all in the space of a few months. He is still very upset about it."

Hero footballer Davitt has since said he believes he could have saved more people in the water if he had been thrown a lifebuoy.

Speaking to the Sunday World Mr Walsh said he had one of the boys in his arms but lost his grip due to the pressure of the car.

“It all happened so quickly but it was as if everything had stopped. People were on the pier and walking around but everybody seemed to be just wondering what was going on.

“I just can’t help feeling I could have done more. I honestly think I could have saved more if someone had thrown me a lifebuoy or something.

“There was one on the pier but nobody used it and I don’t know why.

“I’ll probably never know why but I can’t help think that I could have done more or I could have saved others.

“There were people fishing and they didn’t realise what was happening. I just can’t take it all in still,” said Mr Walsh.

It is understood one reason so many people did not realise what was happening is that many thought it was part of a training exercise.

An exercise involving the emergency services including the RNLI and the Rescue 118 helicopter took place at the pier for a number of hours and only officially finished around 5pm.

Mr McGrotty’s Audi Q7 SUV went into the water at around 7pm after slipping from the pier.

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