Buncrana tragedy has touched entire country
Published 22/03/2016 | 02:30
Some tragedies seem too stark for words. The sorrow evinced by the harrowing events at Lough Swilly has touched the hearts of the whole country.
Affixing expression to such loss appears futile, but the lines of the poet Robert Herrick come some way to capture the sense of grief: "The eye by tears speak, while the tongue is mute."
The shock has been compounded by the suddenness, and the senselessness, of such a catastrophic end to a Sunday drive. The thoughts and prayers of the country will be with the surviving relatives of Sean McGrotty (49), his two young sons Mark (12) and Evan (8), his mother-in-law Ruth Daniels (59), and Ms Daniels's daughter Jodie-Lee Daniels, who was 14.
Amidst the overwhelming grief was the extraordinary heroism that resulted in the rescue of Mr McGrotty's four-month-old baby daughter Rioghnach-Ann.
The gardaí rightly paid tribute to the courage of local man Davitt Walsh, whose exceptional bravery saved the infant from certain death.
The rescue services did everything possible and their sensitivity and professionalism was also singled out by witnesses.
As one witness put it: "I was hoping against hope and praying ... that the car would stay afloat, knowing that everybody [emergency services] was on their way.
"And then, just all of a sudden, the whole lot just went under the water."
The emergency services arrived promptly but such was the tragic pace of events that within just 10 minutes a rescue mission became one of recovery and five lives were lost.
In the days ahead, there will be investigations - clearly the slipway was covered in algae and thus hazardous for driving; but in the twilight of evening, this may not have been obvious.
The anguished scenes at Buncrana are a searing and pitiless reminder of the need for extreme caution when driving close to water.