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'The most palpable grief': Desolation as five victims from one family named

The mother of the young boys killed is “inconsolable and totally bereft”.

Updated 5.07 pm

joiner From top left: Evan McGrotty with his father Sean, Jodie Lee-Daniels, Mark McGrotty and Ruth Daniels Source: Facebook

A COMMUNITY IN Derry is rallying to provide comfort to a woman who lost her husband, two children, mother and sister in last night’s tragedy in county Donegal.

Louise Daniels was in England for the weekend and on her return was told of the tragedy that had befallen her family.

Her husband, Seán McGrotty, was driving an Audi Q7 jeep when it entered the water at Buncrana at about 7.30pm on Sunday.

Their sons Mark (12) and Evan (8) and daughter Rionaghac-Ann (four months) were in the vehicle, along with their grandmother Ruth Daniels and her daughter Jodie Lee-Daniels (14).

Buncrana Pier accident Members of the public lay flowers at the scene at Buncrana Pier. Source: Niall Carson/PA

The baby girl was passed out of the jeep’s window to a bystander who had jumped into the water to help. She survived and is said to be “doing very well” in hospital.

The remaining five family members all drowned in the tragedy.

The family’s home in St Eithne’s Park in Ballymagroarty, Derry is now the scene of “total desolation”, according to the local parish priest.

The family were sitting in a circle looking completely shell shocked.

Seán McGrotty’s nephew Mark says that relations are now coming from abroad to help them deal with the tragedy.

“It’s just too much,” he says.

My mother’s from Canada and we’re talking about her coming back, and Seán’s father’s there too. And we’ve got them on a flight then coming home tomorrow.

Asked about his sister-in-law Louise and his cousin Rionaghac-Ann, he says Louise is a “strong girl” and that her daughter is doing well in hospital.  

“I don’t know how she’s going to sort herself together, she’s a strong girl like. It’s tough like.”

The baby girl is 100%, she has a wee bruise on her head. They’re just keeping her in now for observation more than anything else.

Source: Niall Carson/PA

Speaking to reporters in the town this afternoon, Fr Paddy O’Kane said Louise’s grief is “most palpable he’s seen in his 43 years as a priest”.

“She’s inconsolable, just totally bereft.

She came to me this morning and said, ‘Everyone is gone, everyone is gone. I’ve nothing to live for apart from my daughter who has lived’.

He described their house as being in total silence, suffering from the shock of the unspeakable heartbreak.

Fr O’Kane said he baptised Louise and Seán’s daughter Rionaghac-Ann in January and Evan was due to make his First Communion in May.

Two weeks ago, the eight-year-old primary school pupil had participated in his First Confession in preparation for the sacrament at the Holy Family church.

PastedImage-28247 Fr Paddy O'Kane Source: Cianan Brennan/TheJournal.ie

Speaking about those occasions, Fr O’Kane noted them as times of celebration.

“Little did we think, so soon, we’d have such a tragedy,” he added. “Little did we think two weeks ago he wouldn’t be here.

Words fail me…. to describe the depths of pain and the vastness of this tragedy.

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“Nothing compares to this… this is way beyond anything. This is the worst thing that has ever happened in the 43 years I’ve been a priest.”

Asked how he was consoling the family, he said there were no words to take away the pain.

“People don’t know what to say. A respectful silence is all I could muster. I said a prayer to give Louise and her family strength.”

Joshua Daniels, whose mother and sister both died in the tragedy, plays for Derry City Football Club. The club’s chairman said the staff and players are in shock.

In a statement, Philip O’Doherty said their thoughts and prayers are with the family.

“Our thoughts are especially with our colleague and team mate Josh Daniels who has been with this club since he was a boy. We are conscious of the depth of his loss. Inadequate as it is, everyone at the club wants to assure him that they will be with him in the coming days and, more importantly, in the weeks and months that lie ahead”.

st eithnes St. Eithne's Primary School in Derry, where 8-year-old Evan went to school. Source: TheJournal.ie

Speaking outside Evan’s school this afternoon, Helen Redden and Pamela Hale say they know the family and that even children going to school today are feeling the tragedy:

You could see it coming into school today. When the young ones are coming into school they’re usually running and jumping for joy and everything else but everything’s very sombre today.

Speaking about grandmother Ruth who died in the drowning, they say she adored her grandchildren.

I knew Ruth well, I knew Ruth very well. I’ve known her for a lifetime. She worked in the shoe factory, she was the life and soul of the party. I was talking to her two Sundays ago, up in Pitchers and I had the wee baby in my arms. She was their wee surprise, because Louise had two boys. And she’d a beautiful wee red dress on her.

“She was just thrilled with this wee baby, she was just thrilled with the wee baby.”

Louise was described as being “just devastated, totally devastated”.

Ruth was a lovely mammy, they were beautiful wee family. Ruth was a great mammy and a lovely granny and I’m sure Louise would be very happy that her wains were in her mammy’s arms as they were going to another life. That’s the only way I can put it. Her mammy and her wee sister were there.

- With reporting by Rónán Duffy and Cianan Brennan in Derry. 

Buncrana tragedy: Victims were five members of one family, rescued baby girl “doing very well”

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