Sunday 18 February 2018

Mum spoke to children on phone just moments before tragedy struck

Evan and Mark with baby sister Rioghnach-Ann
Evan and Mark with baby sister Rioghnach-Ann
Louise with her son Evan
Cathal McMahon

Cathal McMahon

The heartbroken mother whose family died when their car plunged in to the sea in Buncrana spoke to them minutes before the tragedy.

Louise James lost her long-term partner Sean McGrotty (46), sons Evan (8) and Mark (12), mum Ruth Daniels (57) and 15-year-old sister Jodie-Lee Daniels.

Ms James was returning from a hen party in Liverpool when the tragedy unfolded in Co Donegal.

Northern Ireland's Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness visited Ms James in her home in Derry, where the local community has been left "stunned".

"She actually spoke to her children around seven o'clock last night in a park in Buncrana and half an hour later they were gone," he said.

"To meet with her this morning was just a scene of utter devastation in the house. She is obviously surrounded by close family members, all of whom are just distraught.

"It is just one of the most heartbreaking scenes that you could ever envisage.

"The young woman that I met has to live with this for the rest of her life. How do you live with this?"

Her baby daughter, who was said to be doing well in Letterkenny General Hospital, was rescued by passer-by Davitt Walsh, who stripped down and swam out to the sinking car as Mr McGrotty screamed for help.

Sean McGrotty's brother Tommy said the rest of the family will have to be strong for Louise and Rioghnach-Ann.

"She's heartbroken, how can you cope with it?," he said.

"I think it will take a long time for this to set in, for her to realise what actually has happened. It's the aftermath of it all, she has to cope with that. We have to be there for her and be strong for Louise, that's all we can do."

Mr McGrotty smiled as he described his nephews, Evan and Mark, as "two characters".

Evan had muscular dystrophy and was recently measured for his first wheelchair, he said.

Despite this, he was warmly remembered as a happy-go-lucky child who never got upset with his illness.

"Mark would have been the quieter one, he would have been a bit more of a thinker. Whereas Evan was a joker, he loved getting involved and carrying on. He would play to get what he wanted," said Mr McGrotty.

"But they were great kids, they wouldn't turn a bad word in your mouth. They just loved life.

"Jodie-Lee was a lovely wee girl. She had her whole life in front of her," said Mr McGrotty.

Last night, her sister Louise was being supported by family and friends as she tried to grasp the extent of the tragedy.

Parish priest Fr Paddy O'Kane said the family is utterly devastated.

"Words cannot describe what they are going through," he said.

"I have been a priest for 43 years and it is the worst incident I have come across, with three generations of the same family lost like this."

Mr McGuinness, who is from Derry, said everyone in the area was stunned by the tragedy.

"We are all lost for words. It's mind-numbing, it's horrific, it's heartbreaking, it's all those things," he said.

"There are no words adequate to describe the loss that a young woman has suffered as a result of this tragedy.

"She (Louise) has lost her partner, her two sons, her mother and her sister."

Irish Independent

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