Wednesday 28 September 2016

Heartbroken mum thanks 1,000 supporters at vigil to honour pier tragedy family

Eamonn MacDermott

Published 28/03/2016 | 02:30

An emotional Louise James is comforted by her brother Chris at the vigil in Buncrana. Below: Evan (left), Mark, and baby Rionaghach-Ann McGrotty. Photo: North West Newspix
An emotional Louise James is comforted by her brother Chris at the vigil in Buncrana. Below: Evan (left), Mark, and baby Rionaghach-Ann McGrotty. Photo: North West Newspix
Evan (L), Mark (R) and baby Rioghnach McGrotty.

Louise James, who lost five family members in the Buncrana pier tragedy, returned to the scene of the drowning last night to honour those who died.

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A crowd of more than a thousand people travelled from near and far to unite in prayer for the family members who perished when their vehicle slipped into the icy waters of Lough Swilly.

People gathered on the shorefront of the Inishowen town in solidarity with Louise who lost her partner, two sons, sister and mother in the accident.

Minutes before the vigil started, Louise and her family - including her four-month-old baby daughter Rionaghach-Ann - slowly made their way to the spot where the events unfolded.

Five baskets of flowers were set afloat on the sea in memory of the five loved ones she lost.

The family then made their way just a few hundred yards to where the community had gathered on the shorefront at 7pm - almost to the minute when last Sunday's tragedy began.

Tears

Fighting backs tears, Louise addressed those present. "There's no words can describe how I'm feeling at the moment. I just want to say a big massive thank you to everybody for your words of support, kindness, generosity, everything. Thank you so much."

The crowd then erupted into a spontaneous round of applause as many wiped tears from the cheeks.

Local parish priest Fr Francis Bradley said those who gathered on the shoreline were there to support Louise and her family, and also to thank God for saving Rionaghach-Ann.

"Tonight another call for help goes out," he said. "And we know that this help will come. We gather in solidarity with Louise and Rionaghac-Ann.

"We thank God for what has been saved and we commend to him those who have been lost. But we do so as an Easter people filled with faith and hope."

Meanwhile, a brother of Sean McGrotty, who lost his life in the tragedy, told how the family had drawn support from all around the world.

Speaking at a ceremony in Derry, Frank McGrotty said the support had "been a great comfort to the family at this most tragic time".

As the Guildhall clock in the city centre struck seven the crowd stood for a minute's silence.

Those who died were Ruth Daniels (57), her daughter Jodie Lee (14), Sean McGrotty (49), and his sons Mark (12) and Evan (8).

Frank McGrotty told those gathered: "I have to say it has been a great comfort to the family to have the thoughts and support of the people of this city with us.

"Words escape me and I am still struggling to come to terms with what has happened, but the outpouring of support from across this city, this country and indeed worldwide has been tremendous."

The Derry vigil was organised by young local girl Kerry Moran, who felt that something should be done to mark the tragedy.

Irish Independent

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