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"I don't know how I'm going to cope with it": Witness describes horror of Buncrana pier tragedy

Francis Crawford was first on the scene and talked to the driver of the car.
Mar 21st 2016, 10:12 AM 34,482 15

BUNCRANA IS REELING this morning after the tragic deaths of five people in a pier accident last night.

Francis Crawford was the man who called the coastguard when the driver of the vehicle told him the family were in trouble.

“I don’t know how I’m going to cope with it,” said Crawford this morning as he recounted his experience of trying to help the family in Buncrana.

He said that he was down at the pier off Lough Swilly last night when he saw the car was already a couple of feet out into the water, TheJournal.ie’s Cianan Brennan reports from the scene.

“I came down to the slipway, and I noticed the car off the slipway,” he said.

It was already off but not for long. I shouted out ‘Are you OK’ and he answers ‘phone the coastguard’, which I did, and they put me through to Malin Head and everything was underway in a minute.

A man from nearby Kerrykeel, understood to be a patron in a nearby restaurant which has a balcony with a view to the slipway, approached Crawford.

Crawford said today that he asked the man could he swim. When the man said he could, Crawford said: “Please, please, please could you – the car was well out at this stage and it was very cold.”

The man stripped down to his underwear – which Crawford believes saved the man’s life – and swam out as the car continued to sink.

The man who swam out was able to get the infant girl out through the window of the car, and return to shore with her. The baby girl is currently at Letterkenny University Hospital and said to be in a stable condition.

“I was still in touch with the driver. I could hear them going down in the car, all the… it was harrowing, it was heartrending,” recalled Crawford. “I knew the services were on their way.”

“I was hoping and praying the coastguard would appear in time,” Crawford said. He was talking to the driver the whole way. “It was desperate.”

“The car was going further and further out.” He said the car “disappeared in a second”.

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Five people lost their lives in the tragic incident. They are believed to be a grandmother, her daughter – who was not the mother of the children – her other daughter’s partner, and two young boys.

Investigations are underway into the circumstances of the incident, with gardaí describing it as a tragic accident.

- With reporting from Cianan Brennan in Buncrana

Read: ‘It’s just horrific’: Locals in shock after five die in Buncrana pier tragedy>

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Aoife Barry

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