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Tuesday 21 November 2017

Rescuers slipped as they attempted to recover the victims

Cathal McMahon

Cathal McMahon

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

Locals in the Donegal town have also questioned why the slipway was open to members of the public when Seán McGrotty's Audi Q7 SUV got into difficulty shortly after 7pm.

Skid marks on the slipway, where the family attempted to manoeuvre their way out of trouble, were visible on the concrete slip. The slipway is used for the Lough Swilly ferry to connect with Rathmullan during the summer months.

There was very little algae above the low-tide water line yesterday. However, a sign warns people at the top of the ramp to stay away.

The most recent water-quality report, from the Environmental Protection Agency, which dates from 2014, says there is no "significant problems" with algae on the nearby Lady's Bay beach.

The lifeboat berth at Buncrana Harbour was dredged in March last year and a statement to the Department of the Environment noted that the works would take place in a "naturally wet and slippery environment".

Donegal County Council did not respond to queries as to whether concerns had been raised about algae growth on the slipway.

Lifeboat operations manager John McCarter said that he and others fell while trying to recover the bodies from the sea, adding that vehicles had previously gone into the water as boats were being launched.

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

Mr McCarter added that as he was attempting to recover the remains of the deceased on Sunday, he slipped and fell, suffering minor injuries.

He said that there were safety procedures and life-saving devices in place on piers.

However, no such devices were visible on or near the slipway yesterday.

Joe Joyce, from the Buncrana RNLI, said it was "not unusual" for algae to be on the slipway at this time of year, adding that they were slippery and could be dangerous.

Local man Patrick Devlin (53) asked why the slipway had not been closed, adding that he did not believe anyone realised just how dangerous it was.

Irish Independent

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