Thursday 23 November 2017

Lifeboat workers slipped and fell on Buncrana pier as they attempted to recover bodies of tragic family

The scene at Buncrana pier today. Photo: Kyran O'Brien
The scene at Buncrana pier today. Photo: Kyran O'Brien
Cathal McMahon

Cathal McMahon

Lifeboat workers slipped and fell on Buncrana pier as they attempted to recover the bodies of a family drowned there last night.

Locals in the Donegal town have questioned why the slipway was open to members of the public after the tragedy.

Sean McGrotty's Audi Q7 SUV got into difficulty in green algae at the beauty spot shortly after 7pm on Sunday evening.

Skid marks, where the family attempted to manoeuvre their way out of trouble, were visible on the concrete slip this afternoon.

Lifeboat Operations Manager John McCarter said that he and others fell while trying to recover the bodies from the sea onto the slipway.

Local man Patrick Devlin (53) asked: "Why haven't they closed it? I know it sounds wise in hindsight but that particular area was an open invitation for anyone out in a car to go in.

"I don't think anybody realised how dangerous that is."

The ferry to Rathmullan operates from the pier in the summer months. Mr Devlin said he has contacted local politicians in the past to ask for a gate at the top of the runway to be closed for the remainder of the year.

"It actually only operated for two months last year. Otherwise that's never in use. I have said to a few councillors: 'Why don't you close that off?'

"I could never understand it but I didn't think it would come to this."

He added: "It was an accident waiting to happen but having said that I never thought it would happen. It's so dangerous."

Mr McCarter explained that  lifeboat crews have been called out to the pier in the past when previous vehicles have gone into the water.

"There have been vehicles that have slipped in but never with people on board. There have been people launching boats and the cars have been pulled back or gone into the water.

"The RNLI have been involved in rescuing those and helping them recover. Fortunately, up to now, there has never been a loss of life."

Mr McCarter, a volunteer with the RNLI, explained that as he was attempting to recover the remains of the deceased from the Lough he slipped and fell. He suffered minor  injuries in the fall.

He explained that there are safety procedures and life saving devices in place on this and other piers around the country.

There were no life-saving devices visible on or near the slipway at Buncrana today.

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