Stephanie Knox and Davitt Walsh
A woman who helped at the scene of the Buncrana pier tragedy has said she did not realise the estate of one of the deceased would be included in legal proceedings issued on her behalf.
Stephanie Knox, a cardiac physiologist, said she has received a number of abusive messages after reports emerged of her lodging a damages claim over the tragedy in March 2016 which claimed the lives of five members of the one family.
Sean McGrotty (48), his sons Mark (12) and Evan (8), their maternal grandmother Ruth Daniels (58) and aunt Jodie-Lee Daniels (14) died when their car slid into Lough Swilly from Buncrana pier on March 20th, 2016. An inquest found they died by misadventure.
Noel McGrotty (86), the father of Sean, has said he received notification of the claim last week.
Stephanie Knox and her then partner Davitt Walsh came on the scene of the tragedy.
Mr Walsh swam out to the submerged car and rescued Sean’s baby daughter Rionaghac-Ann.
Ms Knox is suing for "loss of earnings and other matters". She says she knew the claim would be issued against Donegal County Council and the insurance company, but didn’t realise the estate of the deceased family would be included in proceedings.
“I am under so much stress and heartache and I would love it to just blow over,” Ms Knox told Independent.ie.
“I knew there was a claim being made against the council and the insurance company...I know what they’re (the family) going through is hard.”
A solicitor for Ms Knox said she did not send a letter claiming compensation to Sean McGrotty's father.
He confirmed that "she is making a claim, on the advice of her legal team, against Donegal county council and the estate for injuries sustained”.
Maoliosa Barr, of Barr and Company Solicitors in Derry, told the Irish News "she did not send any letter to the McGrotty family".
The Irish News reported that it is understood the letter was sent by the Personal Injuries Assessment Board, which provides independent assessments of non-medical compensation claims.
“She is making a claim, on the advice of her legal team, against Donegal County Council and the estate for injuries sustained,” Mr Barr said.
Post-traumatic stress disorder
Ms Knox has posted on Facebook that she assumed her claim would have been against Donegal County Council and an insurance company.
“Never in my life did I think it would be coming from the family,” she wrote.
She said she lodged a claim because she had been suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder since the tragedy.
Noel McGrotty told the Derry News he had received a legal letter from Ms Knox, claiming an undisclosed amount from the estate of his late son for loss of earnings and other matters.
"It was a private delivery and I had to sign for it; it was a big envelope full of legal documents - hard for the ordinary man in the street to understand," he said.
"Then I saw the name Knox and realised it was from the girl that took the baby when she was brought out of the water that day."
Ms Knox’s sister Laura posted on Facebook that Stephanie was informed by the gardaí that people who were on the pier that day were claiming so Stephanie went to her solicitor for advice.
“Stephanie is not the type of person that people are making her out to be all over Facebook and anyone who actually knows her would know this. Stephanie would never be as spiteful to claim off an 86 year old man. She was under the impression that the claim was against the Donegal council and due to the same reason that the family were claiming for - algae being on the slipway and other reasons. That day has ruined her life forever witnessing 5 people die in front of her and her life will never be the same.”