Tuesday 20 February 2018

Buncrana pier tragedy rescuers 'were unable to open car doors'

Sean McGrotty, top, with his partner Louise, four-month-old Rionaghac-Ann, and sons Mark (11), right, and Evan (8)
Sean McGrotty, top, with his partner Louise, four-month-old Rionaghac-Ann, and sons Mark (11), right, and Evan (8)

Stephen Maguire

A pre-inquest hearing into the Buncrana Pier tragedy in which five members of the same family drowned has heard that first responders could not open the car's doors.

Sean McGrotty, his sons and two other relatives died when their Audi Q7 went into Lough Swilly, in Co Donegal, on March 20, 2016. A full inquest into the tragedy is due to take place at Buncrana Courthouse in November.

However, a pre-evidential hearing yesterday heard how a report by Volkswagen Ireland had disclosed that first responders couldn't open the car doors when they arrived at the scene.

The issue was raised by barrister Keith O'Grady, who is acting on behalf of insurer Allianz for the late Mr McGrotty. Mr O'Grady addressed yesterday's hearing and outlined a number of issues he wanted to address before the formal inquest.

He pointed to the report by VW Ireland in which he said it was disclosed by the company that first responders could not open the Audi's doors. He said he would be fully reviewing this report as well as reports by Donegal County Council into its piers and slipways and others by the Road Safety Authority and the Irish Water Safety Authority.

Mr O'Grady asked coroner Denis McCauley to release all 57 draft witness depositions, calling the case "most unfortunate and unusual".

"We have to ensure that something like this never happens again," he said.

"The when and where will not be an issue but the how and surrounding circumstances will be an issue here.

"I feel this is a case if ever there was a case for a more extensive disclosure than you may be prepared to grant.

"I need to hear what the people on the scene heard, saw and what the condition of the place was."

Mr McCauley said he was usually quite liberal with allowing depositions into an inquest.

Those who lost their lives were Sean McGrotty, his sons Mark (11) and eight-year-old Evan, his mother-in-law Ruth Daniels and her daughter Jodie-Lee Tracey (15).

Mr McGrotty's baby Rionaghac-Ann was saved when her father passed her out of the window to local man Davitt Walsh.

Irish Independent

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