Northern Ireland

Buncrana tragedy: Londonderry family lose five members in Donegal drowning

The five victims of the drowning tragedy Image copyright Social media
Image caption The victims were, from left, Mark McGrotty, 12, and Evan McGrotty, 8, Sean McGrotty, 49, Ruth Daniels, 57, and Jodie Lee Daniels, 14

The family that lost five members in a drowning tragedy off the Irish coast has praised the man who saved a four-month-old baby girl.

Those who died were the partner, two sons, mother and sister of Louise James, from Londonderry.

They were killed when their car entered the water at Buncrana pier on Sunday.

They have been named as Sean McGrotty, 49, his sons Mark, 12, and Evan, 8, his mother-in-law Ruth Daniels, 59, and Ruth's daughter Jodie Lee Daniels, 14.

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Media captionDavitt Walsh told RTÉ he could "see the distress in the family" as their car began to sink

Ms James had just returned from a hen party in England on Sunday night when she was told about their deaths.

Jim McGrotty, Sean McGrotty's brother, has said the family was living a nightmare.

"I was sitting at home when news of the tragedy started to emerge last night, my thoughts were for the families of those involved." he said.

"Little did I realise then that it was my own family members who had died.

Image copyright AFP
Image caption Police said the four-month-old baby that was rescued is doing well in hospital

"On behalf of the family we want to thank that brave man who swam into the sea and who saved the life of Louise's baby Rionaghac-Ann, who is only four months old.

"We have since found out that Rionaghac-Ann's father Sean handed his baby daughter out of the window of the car into the arms of the brave man who dived in to help just seconds before the car sank with the other family members inside."

He said there had been a "constant stream of callers arriving at the house" since people had heard of his family's loss.

"On behalf of the family we wish to thank those people for their support and for their love at this very difficult time for us all," he said.

Image copyright Pacemaker
Image caption People visited the pier at Buncrana to pay their respects to the victims

"Words cannot express the enormity of the tragedy which has befallen our family. We are all numbed by this tragedy which has visited us.

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

Sean McGrotty was "the most devoted of fathers and husbands" who "idolised his children", his brother added.

"Mark was a first-year student at St Joseph's Secondary School and Evan, his brother, who had muscular dystrophy was a pupil at St Eithne's Primary School," he said.

"The principals of the schools visited the family home this morning and it was clearly distressing for them.

"Jodie Lee's principal also called with us and she too was upset."

Among those who visited the family home was Father Paddy O'Kane, the parish priest.

Fr O'Kane said the family's grief "cannot be measured".

Image copyright Pacemaker
Image caption The family's car entered Lough Swilly after it left the end of Buncrana pier

"There was a numbness and stillness in the family home, and my thoughts and prayers, and the thoughts and prayers of the entire parish and further afield, are with those bereaved," he said.

"Poor Louise has lost so many of her family in this tragedy and she only received the news when she returned from a family function in England yesterday evening.

"It's just so hard to put into words what has happened to this family."

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