Devastated brother says tragic father 'idolised' his family
The father who tragically died along with his two sons, mother-in-law and sister-in-law, was described as a "devoted father" who "idolised his children".
Sean McGrotty's brother, Tommy (60), said he read a Facebook post about the Donegal nightmare on Sunday night without realising it was his own family who were involved.
"I thought to myself, 'Somebody's going to get a bad knock at the door tonight.' Just at that minute, my phone rang and it was a nephew of mine. He said to me, 'You need to get up to my da's house straight away,'" he said at the family home in the Ballymagroarty area of Derry.
Sean (49), his two sons, Mark (12) and Evan, eight, their grandmother, Rita Daniels (59), and her daughter, Jodie-Lee (14), all drowned.
Jim McGrotty, another brother, said Sean "was the most devoted of fathers and husbands. He idolised his children".
The family paid tribute to Davitt Walsh, who jumped in to the sea to rescue baby Rioghnach-Ann.
Mr McGrotty said the boys stayed with their grandmother the night before the family trip to Buncrana for a "nice day's outing" turned to tragedy.
"On the Sunday, Sean decided to take them all out for dinner," said Tommy.
"He called down and took the wee ones out to Buncrana. They all had dinner in Buncrana and then he took them to the park along the shorefront.
"It must have been on the way home they decided to go look at the sunset on the pier and then, that's when it all went wrong and tragically ended in disaster.
"It was just a day out, it was just a nice day's outing, as anybody does on a Sunday."
He paid tribute to his younger brother Sean, who worked as a glazier in Derry, saying: "He was a man's man. He loved his pigeons but most of all he loved his kids and family. I was really close to him."
Mr McGrotty said Sean and his partner Louise had been faced with "unimaginable tragedy" about 10 years ago when they lost a baby at childbirth.
"She was devastated by that," he said. "It was a wee girl as well, so she was really excited when she had Rioghnach-Ann."
The McGrotty family suffered a second loss last year when their sister, Ann McColgan, died from cancer. Their father and sister are flying home from Canada for the funerals on Thursday.