Buncrana inquest hears driver was three times over drink driving limit

The pathologist told the inquest she couldn't indicate if the alcohol impaired Sean McGrotty's driving

Buncrana inquest hears driver was three times over drink driving limit

The scene at Buncrana Pier in Co Donegal after the tragedy in March 2016. Picture by: Niall Carson/PA Archive/PA Images

Updated 18.40

Post mortem results for the driver of the car involved in the Buncrana pier tragedy show he was three times over the drink driving limit, an inquest has heard.

A pathologist who examined Sean McGrotty's body says the results of the post-mortem indicate there may have been an element of intoxication.

Pathologist Dr Catriona Dillon told an inquest into the deaths of five members of the one family that alcohol may have been a factor.

On examining the body she found 159 milligrams per decimetre of alcohol in Mr McGrotty's blood.

The legal limit is 50 milligrams per decimetre.

The pathologist told the inquest she couldn't indicate if the alcohol impaired Mr McGrotty's driving as it depended on a number of factors including whether he was a habitual drinker.

But she said the levels of alcohol found may indicate an element of intoxication involved.

Mr McGrotty (49) was behind the wheel when his car entered the water at Buncrana pier in March 2016, in an incident that saw him, his two sons, their grandmother and her daughter to lose their lives.

Tragedy

Earlier, witnesses to the tragedy in Co Donegal told an inquest they could hear children screaming as their car entered the water.

Mr McGrotty's sons (12-year-old Mark and 8-year-old Evan), their grandmother Ruth Daniels, and her 14-year-old daughter Jodie Lee also died in the tragedy.

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Louise James lost her partner, two sons, mother and sister in the incident.

At the inquest she said was coming back from a hen party in the UK at the time of the accident.

She recalled getting a feeling something wasn't right.

She tried to call them but their phones wouldn't connect.

Louise contacted her brother to see if her mammy had come home.

Just before she boarded her flight to Belfast her brother asked if she'd seen social media reports of a car going into the water in Buncrana, but had heard it was two men and not her family.

After landing in Belfast, she got a call from her brother who told her to calm down, that Sean was the first to be identified, and they were all gone.

Witnesses

Two witnesses told how the car was in the water when they arrived on the scene, and had sunk 12 to 15 minutes later.

They described how they could hear screaming from kids in the car, and how Mr McGrotty called for help from the vehicle.

Davitt Walsh, the hero who swam out to the car and saved baby Rioghnach-Ann from the car, also gave evidence.

He described how he tried to help a boy escape from a broken window in the car, but lost the grip on his hand when he got stuck as the vehicle sank.

Witnesses have described how there was slippery and thick algae on the slipway in Buncrana that night - and no safety signs were in place.

Three lifebouys were meant to be at the pier, but gardaí say only one was in place that night.

One eyewitness described how three bodies came to the surface of the water shortly after the car sank, with one seeming to attempt to swim to shore.

Gardaí described the efforts made by emergency services to resuscitate people at the scene, with first responders spending 30 minutes trying to save the life of Ruth Daniels in particular.

First responders arrived at the scene within four minutes of being notified of the tragedy, but were too late to save any more lives.

The Coroner, Dr Denis McCauley, has described what happened as one of the worst family tragedies on the Irish coast in living memory.

The inquest continues in Buncrana tomorrow.