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A mother's words: 'They went to watch the sunset, unbeknown to them all an angel would be near'

Louise James spoke at the funeral service for her husband, sons, mother and sister in Derry this afternoon.

24/3/2016. Buncrana Drownings.Scenes of grief as t Eamonn Farrell Eamonn Farrell

A HEARTBROKEN MOTHER, wife, daughter and sister faced the unthinkable this afternoon as she paid tribute to five of her loved ones at their joint funeral service in Derry.

Louise James shared a poem dedicated to her husband Sean McGrotty, sons Mark (12) and Evan (8), mother Ruth Daniels and sister Jodie Lee (14) from the altar of the Holy Family Church.

Before offering thanks to those who witnessed the horrific tragedy on Buncrana Pier which took her family away from her on Sunday evening, she read the following words:

“Heart broken beyond repair,
the tragedy of a family gone,
leaving so many in despair.

They went to watch the sunset,
together on Buncrana Pier,
unbeknown to them all
an angel would be near.

Taken together as a family,
joined as one on heaven’s door,
a community left in mourning,
lives shatters ever more.

Their faces will forever map the sea,
Remembered by each and every one.
Down by the lake or shadows,
when you look beyond the sun.”

24/3/2016. Buncrana Drownings. Louise McGrotty (fr Eamonn Farrell / Eamonn Farrell / /

Louise, who carried the coffins of her children today, then thanked “all those who were involved in the tragic events of Sunday evening”. 

“Firstly, I would like to thank Francis Crawford and your wife for alerting the emergency services and his effort to reassuring Sean that help was on its way,” she told the congregation.

We would also like to extend our thanks to the emergency services: the Coastguard, the RNLI, the fire services, the medical services and the gardaí.

“Finally, we will be eternally grateful to Davitt Walsh and his girlfriend Stephanie Knox. For without fear for his own life and safety, he entered the Lough Swilly to save my Rioghnach-Ann. And I will be forever grateful to you. Thank you so, so much.”

Her words were met with a sustained round of applause by the packed church.

Fr Paddy O’Kane spoke about how Louise told him that her baby daughter was now the only reason to live.

Welcoming the surviving family members to the church, the priest addressed the mother directly, saying she was “the most bereft of all” as she had lost so much.

“I know there are no words I can say here to express the depth of your heartbreak, no words to take away your pain or alleviate your sorrow,” he added.

Recalling the phone call she made to him, he said: “When the news broke on Sunday evening that a terrible accident had happened on Buncrana pier my prayers for the dead and bereaved included a prayer for the priest who would have to face the family and at the funeral try to make sense of this tragedy.

Little did I think I was praying for myself.

“Then at seven o’clock on Monday morning I got a call: ‘It’s Louise James here, Fr Paddy’ she said ‘that was my husband, my children, my mother, my sister that died yesterday evening.’ Stunned, I later made my way to her home where the grief was palpable. Grown men stood, red eyed, in silence.”

He also paid tribute to Davitt Walsh and Stephanie Knox, repeating words that Louise told him that there could have been seven deaths if it were not for them.

The five victims of the tragedy were laid to rest after the funeral service this afternoon.

Originally published: 5pm

More: Evan’s last words to his mother: ‘I miss you so much. I’m going to give you the biggest, tightest hug’

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