Hero who rescued baby in Buncrana tragedy: 'I'm afraid I'll break down after seeing the coffins or the families'
Published 24/03/2016 | 02:30
The hero who rescued a baby amid the Buncrana pier tragedy has met the infant's mother in an emotional get-together before he attends today's funeral for the five victims.
Davitt Walsh (28) has received plaudits from around the world after swimming into Lough Swilly last Sunday evening to rescue four-month-old Rioghnach-Ann.
The baby's mother, Louise James, lost her partner, her two sons, her mother and her sister in the tragedy.
Mr Walsh and his girlfriend Stephanie Knox met Ms James in Derry after a request from the family.
Last night, the hero said he was feeling "anxious, afraid, nervous and upset" ahead of the funerals today. "There are just so many emotions. I'm afraid in case I break down after seeing the coffins or the families knowing I could have maybe did more."
However, he hopes attending the funerals will give him and Ms Knox "some closure".
"Maybe we may get some ease or closure seeing them going to a happier place and being together as a family.
"We did not go to the wakes as we have both been traumatised by the events of Sunday and we would just like to see the faces of the victims in their happier times from pictures.
"It would just be heart-breaking seeing them there knowing I might have been able to save someone else," he added.
Ms Knox, who helped keep the baby girl warm after Mr Walsh brought her ashore, said meeting Ms James has helped them all as they try to come to terms with the tragedy.
"My biggest admiration goes out to Louise, the Daniels family and the McGrotty family," said Ms Knox.
The meeting was arranged by Ms James's parish priest Fr Paddy O'Kane, who said the encounter had been "emotional".
"Louise assured (Mr Walsh) of her enormous gratitude at saving baby Rioghnach-Ann. She told Davitt that he had saved her precious baby and she would be forever grateful for what he did," he added.
Tributes have been paid to the families and to Mr Walsh from around the world. Premiership footballers Wayne Rooney and James McClean, a native of Derry, both tweeted messages of support.
The Manchester United captain specifically mentioned the two boys who died, who were fans of the club.
He tweeted: "Devastating news about young Mark, Evan & family from Derry. Your support hasn't gone unnoticed. Prayers with family #rooneyformarkandevan."