Wednesday 26 July 2017

'We're still having nightmares' - Buncrana tragedy hero who saved baby praised at Water Safety Awards

Davitt with Rioghnach-Ann a few days after he’d rescued her
Davitt with Rioghnach-Ann a few days after he’d rescued her
Allison Bray

Allison Bray

A couple who dramatically saved a baby as her family drowned after their SUV was submerged off the pier in Buncrana, Co Donegal last spring were among 47 rescuers honoured for their bravery this evening.

Davitt Walsh, (30), from Kerrykeel, Co Donegal and his girlfriend Stephanie Knox, (24 ) from Derry, were each presented with Rescue Appreciation awards by Housing Minister Simon Coveney as part of Irish Water Safety's annual national awards ceremony at Dublin Castle this evening.

Mr Walsh, whose selfless bravery has earned him the moniker, ' Buncrana Tragedy Hero' was unable to attend the event but his friend  James King from Donegal accepted the "Seiko Just in Time Rescue Award' on his behalf.

However, Ms Knox, (24) said her partner is honoured with the award as both he and she try to get on with their lives that changed forever on Sunday March 20 last year when they stopped at the pier to take in the view and were horrified to see an SUV sinking into the frigid water of Lough Swilly off a slip road.

Buncrana Pier (Inset: RNLI)
Buncrana Pier (Inset: RNLI)

Mr Walsh stripped down and swam out to the sinking SUV in an attempt to rescue a family that was trapped inside as the vehicle plunged deeper into the sea.

In a tragedy that reverberated around the world, Sean McGrotty,  (49) from Derry city,thrust his infant daughter Riognach Anne McGrotty, into Mr Walsh's arms though the car window and begged him to save her as his family, including sons Evan, (8), Mark (12), his mother-in-law Ruth Daniels (57) and her daughter Jodie Lee Daniels, (14) perished in the horrific accident.

Speaking to Independent.ie last night, Ms Knox, who had the presence of mind to take off the baby's wet clothes and wrap her in her coat to prevent her from dying from hypothermia, said she is still having nightmares over the tragedy.

But she said the trauma counselling that both she and Davitt have undergone to cope with the horror has helped.

They couple are also still in contact with Louise McGrotty,  the baby's mother, when the unspeakable horror of losing her family unfolded as she returned from a trip to the UK.

However, Stephanie  said they are giving her some space to come to terms with the tragedy, although they are in touch with the family and delighted to see Riognach Anne's progress as she nears her first birthday.

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