Northern Ireland’s Deputy First Minister has paid tribute to the young Donegal man who saved a four-month old baby girl from drowning and the emergency services who attempted to save five members of her family who drowned when their car entered the water at Buncrana pier on Sunday night.
Declan Magee reports from Buncrana.
Martin McGuinness, pictured in Buncrana yesterday, described the incident, which is being treated by gardaí as a tragic accident, as “shocking beyond belief”.
Ruth Daniels, 57, her 15-year-old daughter Jodie-Lee, son-in-law Sean McGrotty, 46, and his two sons, 12-year-old Mark and Evan, eight, all died when the Audi SUV slid down a slipway into Lough Swilly.
Four-month old Rioghnach-Ann was saved from the stricken car when Kerrykeel man Davitt Walsh (pictured) swam out to help.
Rioghach-Ann’s mother was at her own hen party in England and was reunited with her baby daughter in Letterkenny University Hospital on Sunday night. Gardaí said the baby is doing very well.
Mr. McGuinness visited the scene in Buncrana on Monday after he had visited the mother of the baby and the two boys who died. The woman also lost her partner, mother and sister.
He said the survival of the baby is the only thing that the young mother has been left with to hold on to.
“There are no words to sum up the heartbreak. I have just come from meeting with a young woman who has lost her partner and her two sons, her mother and her sister.
“It is a very, very sad house, obviously, full of relatives who are hugely supportive at this very difficult time.
“It is really heartbreaking and mind numbing. It is shocking beyond belief.
“Everyone is in a total state of shock, a total state of bewilderment, absolutely heartbroken.”
He paid tribute to emergency services who attended the scene and “did their very best in a very limited time to attempt to save the people who were involved in this tragedy.”
Praising Mr Walsh, who stripped to his underwear and swam out to the car, he said: “We should also recognise at this time the man from Kerrykeel who went out and risked his own life to successfully save the child.
“When you consider his heroic efforts, you can see that every attempt was made by everybody that could do anything to try and save the people who were in the vehicle.
“But unfortunately five people have lost their lives and it really is a dark day for Derry, for Donegal and for Buncrana.”
Mr. McGuinness said the communities on both sides of the border now have to offer whatever support they can.
“This is a young woman we are talking about who obviously deeply loved her family, mother, her partner her children, her sister. And now she is just totally devastated and the family circle around her are devastated also.
“We the people of Derry and Donegal... all we can do at this time, is as much as is possible, throw our arms around family and do everything that we possibly can to help them through this terrible, terrible trauma.”