Monday 23 April 2018

'It's not just me claiming' - woman who helped at scene of Buncrana pier drowning

Stephanie Knox tells Independent.ie she never intended to sue the estate of the deceased family

Scene of Buncrana pier tragedy (Inset: Stephanie Knox, the ex-partner of Davitt Walsh, the man who rescued four-month-old Rioghnach Ann McGrotty)
Scene of Buncrana pier tragedy (Inset: Stephanie Knox, the ex-partner of Davitt Walsh, the man who rescued four-month-old Rioghnach Ann McGrotty)
Amy Molloy

Amy Molloy

A woman who helped at the scene of the Buncrana pier tragedy has said she is "living a horrible nightmare" and insists she is not the only person who has taken legal action.

Stephanie Knox, a cardiac physiologist, issued legal proceedings for "loss of earnings and other matters" but says she didn't realise the claim would be brought against the estate of the deceased family.

She told Independent.ie that it took her a long time to get help because she was "afraid to talk about the tragic incident."

"I've been suffering ever since that day," she told Independent.ie.

"It took me a long time to get help because I was afraid to talk about the accident, I just wanted to hide it. This has been a horrible nightmare. And it's not just me claiming that's why it's so hard.

“I’m under so much stress and heartache and I would love it to just blow over.

Davitt Walsh with his former partner Stephanie Knox
Davitt Walsh with his former partner Stephanie Knox

“I knew there was a claim being made against the council and the insurance company...I know what they’re [the family] going through is hard."

Ms Knox claims she was aware proceedings would be issued against Donegal County Council and the insurance company, but not the famly.

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

Louise James, who lost her partner, Mr McGrotty, two sons, a sister and her mother in the tragedy, has also sued both the council and the estate.

Noel McGrotty, Sean McGrotty’s 86-year-old father, told Donegal Now he received the letter notifying him of the legal proceedings last week.

Ruth Daniels
Ruth Daniels

“It was a private delivery and I had to sign for it; it was a big envelope full of legal documents - hard for the ordinary man in the street to understand,” he said.

“Then I saw the name Knox and realised it was from the girl that took the baby when she was brought out of the water that day.”

Louise James after the inquest
Louise James after the inquest

A solicitor for Ms Knox told The Irish News that "she did not send any letter to the McGrotty family".

Maeliosa Barr added: "She is making a claim, on the advice of her legal team, against Donegal County Council and the estate for injuries sustained.”

Davitt Walsh, who swam out into the harbour in an effort to save six occupants of the Audi Q7 that plunged off a pier
Davitt Walsh, who swam out into the harbour in an effort to save six occupants of the Audi Q7 that plunged off a pier

Barr & Company Solicitors told Independent.ie that they had no further comment to make at this stage.

Sean McGrotty (49), his sons Mark (12) and Evan (8), his mother-in-law Ruth Daniels (59) and her daughter Jodie-Lee (14), died when the SUV vehicle they were travelling in slid on algae and slipped into the water at Lough Swilly on March 20, 2016.

A post-mortem examination found Mr McGrotty was more than three times over the legal drink-driving limit when the accident happened.

Ms Knox is the ex-partner of Davitt Walsh, the man who rescued four-month-old Rioghnach Ann McGrotty from the car in which five members of her family drowned.

Mr Walsh swam to the SUV and rescued the baby before it went under water.

It is understood he is not taking any legal action in relation to the tragic incident.

He then swam back to the pier and handed Rioghnach to Ms Knox, who wrapped the toddler in a blanket and waited for emergency services to arrive.

Her sister posted on Facebook that “a number of people” who were present on the pier on the day of the tragedy were lodging claims and her sister then sought advice from a solicitor.

“That day has ruined her life forever, witnessing five people die in front of her, and her life will never be the same,” she wrote.

Last week marked the second anniversary of the tragedy.

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