Saturday 21 October 2017

Moment Buncrana hero holds baby Rioghnach for first time since pier tragedy

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

Independent.ie Newsdesk

This is the moment the Buncrana hero holds baby Rioghnach for first time since last Sunday's pier tragedy.

Davitt Walsh, pictured here holding baby Rioghnach-Ann, met the infant and her mother in an emotional get-together before he attended today's funeral for the five victims.

The 28-year-old has received plaudits from around the world after swimming into Lough Swilly last Sunday evening to rescue the baby.

The five victims of the Buncrana pier drowning tragedy will be laid to rest today following this afternoon's joint funeral service.

Sean McGrotty and Louise James, holding baby Rioghnach-Ann, with sons Evan (8) and Mark (12)
Sean McGrotty and Louise James, holding baby Rioghnach-Ann, with sons Evan (8) and Mark (12)
Louise James kisses son Evan McGrotty after he and his brother Mark (behind) collected their medals for the Walled City Marathon mini race last May from Mayor of Derry Elisha McCallion. Photo: Margaret McLaughlin
Evan and Mark with baby sister Rioghnach-Ann

Sean McGrotty, 46, died along with his two sons Mark, 12, and Evan, eight when their SUV sank after sliding off a slipway in Co Donegal.

The boy's grandmother Ruth Daniels, 57, and her 15-year-old daughter Jodie Lee Daniels also died in Sunday night's tragic incident.

Local Derry priest Fr Paddy O’Kane told the Derry Journal that when the emtional meeting between Mr Walsh and Louise Daniels took place the pair hugged and cried together.

“I was happy to provide tea and coffee for Davitt, his girlfriend and his family and Louise and her brothers, and it was a very emotional meeting and it ended up with Davitt holding little Rioghnach-Ann, who provided such joy to the whole situation by opening her eyes and smiling and yawning and you could see Louise’s face light up when she looked into her little daughter’s eyes. She is giving her such strength at the moment, strength from this little baby," Fr O'Kane told the Derry Journal.

“Louise was crying, Davitt was crying, we were all crying. It was one of those moments that come once in a life-time."

“Louise said to Davitt ‘I am so, so grateful to you for saving the life of my little daughter. I will be eternally grateful to you and you will have a bond with my little daughter for the rest of your life’. And then, ‘Would you like to hold her?’”

Holy Family Church, near the family home in the Ballymagroarty area of Derry, is expected to be packed with mourners for the requiem service.

The only survivor of the accident in Lough Swilly was Mr McGrotty's four-month-old baby girl Rionaghac-Ann.

Jodie Lee Daniels (15) who died in Buncrana pier tragedy
Jodie Lee Daniels (15) who died in Buncrana pier tragedy
Ruth Daniels

Her mother Louise has said the baby is her only reason to go on living, having lost her partner, two sons, her mother and sister.

Mr Walsh has been hailed a hero after swimming out into the harbour in an effort to save the six occupants of the Audi Q7.

Mr McGrotty handed him his baby out of the broken driver's side window just moments before the vehicle sank.

The victims were on a day out from nearby Derry when the tragedy unfolded.

Davitt Walsh with his girlfriend Stephanie Knox. Photo: North West Newspix
Davitt Walsh with his girlfriend Stephanie Knox. Photo: North West Newspix

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