Little Rioghnach-Ann is "ray of hope bravely breaking through the dark clouds" - priest tells mourners

Buncrana Tragedy

Little Rioghnach-Ann is

A community mourns as five hearses arrive at Holy Family Church in Ballymagroarty

The four month old sole survivor of the tragic accident in which five people died this week is the “one little sliver of light” in the darkest of weeks, a priest told the funeral congregation today.

Fr Patrick O'Kane was giving the homily today at Holy Family Church, Ballymagroarty, Derry during the joint funeral of Sean McGrotty (48), his sons Mark (12) and Evan (8), his mother-in-law Ruth Daniels (57) and her daughter Jodie-Lee Daniels (14). All five perished when their car slipped off Buncrana Pier on Sunday night.

He described first learning of the terrible accident and including the priest in his prayers for the victims and their families.

“Little did I think I was praying for myself,” he said.

The next morning, he got the call and made his way to the home of Louise James, who had lost her husband, children, mother and sister.

“We are plunged in grief - even the heavens are crying,” he said.

“Five beautiful people have been taken tragically from our midst, five people whom we loved.

Photos of the deceased were brought to the altar. (North West NewsPix)

United in grief

“Not just this family, this community, this country, but also people from all over the world are united with us in grief.

“Tomorrow, Good Friday, we will hear Christ on the Cross scream out ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’ We can make our own that lonely, painful prayer of desolation today.”

Yet, as we “struggle today to find words to speak the unspeakable”, we also “search for an oasis of hope in this bleak landscape”.

There is, he went on, “one little sliver of light, one ray of hope bravely breaking through the dark clouds and it is this-little Rioghnach Ann has been saved.”

Jesus calls us to reach out in service, he added. “We saw it in the self-sacrifice of Sean on Sunday evening as he desperately tried to save his family.

“We saw that altruism again in the bravery of Davitt Walsh who saved the life of Rioghnach Ann by swimming out to rescue her. Davitt, today we salute you as our hero.”

At these words, there was a round of applause from the congregation.

He then recalled how Louise James had herself thanked Davitt and his girl-friend Stephanie Knox for her “quick thinking as she warmed the baby’s little blue body back to life.”

The couple met her and her baby on Tuesday.

“Louise thanked you both sincerely from the bottom of her heart and for trying to save the lives of her sons. 'Don’t blame yourself that you did not do more – we are so grateful for what you did,' she said. 'It could easily have been seven deaths, not five,'’ Louise added, before passing the baby to Davitt to hold. She opened her beautiful blue eyes, smiled up at him and had a big yawn,” Fr O'Kane recalled.

He also thanked Francis Crawford for raising the alarm, the emergency services and all who helped.

“The kindness of strangers is another ray of light to lift us from our darkness,” he said.

Pictured: A community mourns as five hearses arrive at the Holy Family Parish Church, Ballymagroarty in Derry. (Photos: North West NewsPix and Donegal Democrat)