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Wednesday 13 December 2017

'Save my baby' - Father's final plea to heroic rescuer in Buncrana tragedy

Three generations of family are killed in freak accident

Sean McGrotty and his partner Louise James, with children Mark (12), Evan (8), and baby Rioghnach-Ann
Sean McGrotty and his partner Louise James, with children Mark (12), Evan (8), and baby Rioghnach-Ann

Greg Harkin

A devoted father who idolised his children passed his baby out of a smashed car window before losing his own life in the Buncrana tragedy.

Sean McGrotty (49), his two sons Mark (12) and Evan(8), the boys' grandmother Ruth Daniels (59) and her daughter Jodie-Lee (14) perished when their car plunged into the sea off a slipway in Co Donegal.

Hero Davitt Walsh (28), who dived in to the sea, revealed how Mr McGrotty passed his four-month-old daughter Rioghnach-Ann out of a smashed window and pleaded: "Save my baby". Mr McGrotty then stayed in the car while trying to save the rest of his family.

"I will never forget those screams. It was awful," said Mr Walsh.

"The man stayed in the car and just said, 'Save the baby'. I think he could have saved himself but he wanted to stay with his family and help them."

The boy's mother, Louise James, was away with friends at a hen party in England when the tragedy unfolded on Sunday evening.

Her parish priest, Father Paddy O'Kane, told the Irish Independent the family was utterly devastated by the loss of three generations.

"Louise said to me, 'I have lost everyone, except little Rioghnach-Ann'. She said, 'Rioghnach-Ann is my reason to go on.'" The infant remains in Letterkenny Hospital, where her condition has been described as stable.

Ms James' mother, sister, long-term partner and two sons will be buried on Thursday in Derry.

"Words cannot express the enormity of the tragedy which has befallen our family," said Mr McGrotty's brother Jim. "We are all numbed by this tragedy which has visited us.

"If there is anything good which has come out of it, it is the fact that baby Rioghnach-Ann has been saved."

It has emerged that the heartbroken mother had spoken to her children minutes before the tragedy.

"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," said Northern Ireland's Deputy First Minister, Derry native Martin McGuinness, who visited the family yesterday.

"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?"

Irish Independent

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