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Tragedy

"The town is cursed" - Buncrana residents numbed by horrific tragedy on their doorstep

The deaths of five members of the one family in the Donegal seaside town on Sunday evening has shocked the tight-knit local community to its core.

2016-03-21 11.51.14 Flowers lie at Buncrana shoreline, with the slipway where the tragedy occurred in the background

THE EVENTS OF last Sunday evening are set to cast a shadow for a long time in Buncrana.

With the deaths of five members of the Daniels and McGrotty families, the community in the little seaside town has taken a hammer blow, one not easily recovered from.

Throughout yesterday morning a sombre silence was recognisable around the streets.

Locals began to gravitate towards the pier where Sunday’s tragedy occurred from early in the morning. Some carried flowers. Others just wanted to be there.

2016-03-21 11.45.09

One Derry man, who bore no relation to the bereaved families, had come to the scene. Why he’d come he couldn’t explain.

“I think I just wanted to see,” he said.

It’s remarkable what happened. So simple, so quick, and it was over. It’s horrible.

His words probably reflect how a lot of Buncrana’s population are currently feeling.

“I didn’t know those people, but I’m a mammy. I want to be here,” a woman told reporters at the scene. She had come down with her daughter. She couldn’t stop crying.

“It’s like something out of a film,” said her daughter. “It just doesn’t feel real.”

I think collectively everyone is glad that at least the baby lived, so she can go on and live her life. And I hope they put up bollards so that this can never, ever happen again because it’s just awful.

Throughout the town, a kind of dazed silence held sway. Something was amiss, you could feel it.

2016-03-21 12.52.26 Buncrana town centre on Monday morning

The town is no stranger to sadness – “yet another tragedy for Buncrana” were the tired, resigned words of one lady who laid flowers at the scene – in recent times road deaths, particularly those of young males, have left the locality stricken.

The true anguish of this calamity is to be felt 20 miles away in Ballymagroarty, Derry, where the bereaved families of Sunday’s disaster may struggle to ever come to terms with what has happened. But Buncrana is bleeding too.

This was a tragedy on their doorstep.

“I heard about it on the night,” says Ruth Taylor, who’s working in a local café. “I could see the helicopter in the sky going back and forth – it was just horrendous.”

The whole community is so close and we’re all just shocked and saddened again, it’s all anyone is talking about.

She can see how the tragedy occurred.

I can understand how it can happen, you get a lot of cars down there, especially on a sunny day, and there’s so much algae at the end of that pier.

2016-03-21 09.00.52

An older lady on the street says that “it hasn’t really sunk in”.

Everybody feels it, it’s just disastrous. What more can you say?

“When we heard the helicopters we just thought it was an exercise,” says Rachel Gorry. “But then when you hear it going on so long you just know that something isn’t right. We went down to watch the operation, it felt like the whole town was there, just standing dumbstruck.”

Again, it’s bad enough and then there are children involved. I really feel for the emergency services. I just can’t imagine having to deal with something like that as a part of my work.

“It’s just complete shock,” a young man tells us.

It’s a hammer blow for the town. And it’s all the worse because children were involved.

“People think the town is cursed,” he says.

He’s not the only local to use the phrase.

“The thing in Buncrana is that supposedly the town is cursed,” agrees Ruth.

But look, it may seem cursed but everyone else throughout the country experienced this as well, not just us.

2016-03-21 10.45.53

Down on the beach, near the slipway, a foreign couple walked. While gardaí had sealed the pier, it was still possible to walk practically up to the slipway along the strand. The couple seemed a little nonplussed by the gathered media hordes.

In this case perhaps ignorance was bliss. The events of last Sunday are something you feel Buncrana will struggle to forget.

Read: ‘Save my baby’: Buncrana father went back into car to try to rescue his family

Read: ‘The most palpable grief’: Desolation as five victims from one family named

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