Northern Ireland

Buncrana tragedy: Man who saved baby 'seconds from saving' second child

Sean McGrotty with his partner Louise, holding their baby Rionaghac-Ann, and with sons Mark (right) and Evan Image copyright Family photo
Image caption Sean McGrotty with his partner Louise, holding their baby Rionaghac-Ann, and with sons Mark (right) and Evan

A man who rescued a baby from a drowning tragedy in County Donegal said he was seconds from saving another child.

Five members of one family died after their car went off Buncrana Pier on Sunday night.

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Media captionBooks of condolence were opened in Londonderry so people could express their feelings about the loss

The victims were Ruth Daniels, 57, her daughter Jodie Lee Daniels, 14, Sean McGrotty, 49, and his sons Mark, 12, and Evan, eight, all from Londonderry.

Books of condolence have opened in the city.

The bodies of the five victims have been brought back to Derry.

Image caption The bodies of the family members have been brought back to Londonderry

'No more tears left'

Davitt Walsh dived into the lough and swam to the family in their car, bringing four-month old Rionaghac-Ann back to safety.

He said he also grabbed the arm of one of the boys.

"I was pulling it and I had the baby in the other hand," he told the BBC.

Image caption A book of condolence has been opened at Holy Family Church in Ballymagroarty

"The water rushed in and the next thing he [the father] just looked at me and said 'Save the baby' and he went back into his family and the car just went straight down.

"I still had the young fella's hand and I just let go of him. His foot must have got caught on something because I nearly had him out," said Mr Walsh.

"The poor man had a decision because he was halfway out of the car and could have saved himself."

Image caption Davitt and his girlfriend Stephanie Knox

Mr Walsh also told BBC Radio Foyle that he had been reunited with baby Rionaghac-Ann at Letterkenny General Hospital.

"I've cried all day, I've no more tears left to be honest," he said.

"The doctors and nurses took us up to see the baby last night and that was the first time I felt good. We saw Rionaghac and it really lifted me and I felt much much better. "

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

The condolence books opened on Monday night at St Joseph's Church in Galliagh and Holy Family Church in Ballymagroarty.

Some of Evan McGrotty's classmates were among those who attended mass on Tuesday morning at Holy Family.

Parish Priest Father Noel Brown led the prayers for the family. He said it is an unimaginable loss.

"Some of the children this morning were actually crying when they were trying to think about what actually happened.

"I could see three or four of them, the tears coming into their eyes," he said.

"I suppose they don't fully understand how that could happen one of their classmates or one of their pupils from the school could be just taken away like that."

The funerals of the victims will take place in the same church in Derry on Thursday.

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Media captionFrank McGrotty, Sean McGrotty's brother, said the whole family had been left devastated by the tragedy

In the Irish parliament (Dáil) on Tuesday, the acting prime minister (taoiseach) Enda Kenny led a minute's silence for the family.

Mr Kenny said the tragic loss would leave a devastating impact on the extended family.

"In these circumstances, however, this is a particular and deepest grief, that the tranquillity and beauty of a sunny spring Sunday was shattered by this tragedy."

Image copyright Other
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

On Monday, Jim, a brother of Sean McGrotty, said the deaths had "devastated the whole family".

"We are now totally in shock and dismay," he said.

"I don't know how we're going to come back from this."

He said that Davitt Walsh was "a hero in this family's eyes".

Image copyright Pacemaker
Image caption People visited Buncrana pier on Monday to leave floral tributes to the family

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