Man who saved baby in Buncrana describes pier tragedy

Davitt Walsh swam into the harbour on Sunday night

Newstalk, Sunday drowning, Buncrana, Donegal, emergency, dead, kill, rescue, baby, car, slip, water, algae, pier

Gardai at the scene at Buncrana Pier in Co Donegal after five people, including at least two children died Sunday | Image: Niall Carson / PA Wire/Press Association Images

The man who rescued a four-month-old girl from a sinking car has described how the child's father passed the infant through a broken window, saying "save the baby".

Davitt Walsh swam into Buncrana harbour in Donegal on Sunday night, in an attempt to rescue six people trapped in an Audi Q7 which plummeted off a slipway.

He said the infant's father, Sean McGrotty (46) passed the baby through the smashed driver's side window just moments before the vehicle sank.

Mr McGrotty died in the car alongside his two sons Mark (12) and Evan (8), his mother-in-law Ruth Daniels (57) and her daughter Jodie Lee Daniels (14).

The baby girl, Rionaghac-Ann, was the only survivor. Her mother Louise McGrotty was away for a hen weekend when the accident occurred.

"The father looked at me and he had to make a decision," Mr Walsh told RTÉ.

"He could have saved himself because he was out of the car, but he went back into his family and I couldn't do nothing else".

"The car went down instantly and the whole lot of them went down - it was just so fast. I took the baby back to the shore".

He added: "I think the father knew that I was only going to be able to save one person".

'Save the baby'

"He said to me, the last thing he said, he handed her to me and he said 'save the baby'...and he went back in and he stayed with his family and the car just disappeared".

Mrs McGrotty, who has lost her husband, two children, mother and sister, has said her surviving child is now her reason to live.

Parish priest Father Paddy O'Kane said the family is "inconsolable".

"Louise said to me, 'I have lost everyone, except little Rionaghac-Ann'. She said 'Rionaghac-Ann is my reason to go on'," he said.

Mrs McGrotty remained in the family home in Derry surrounded by extended family and friends on Monday.

Jim McGrotty, a brother of Sean, told the Irish Times: "Words cannot express the enormity of the tragedy which has befallen our family".

"We are all numbed by this tragedy which has visited us. If there is anything good which has come out of it, it is the fact that baby Rionaghac-Ann has been saved".

Gardaí are treating the incident as a tragic accident.

President Michael D Higgins has joined Northern Ireland's First and Deputy First Ministers in expressing their sympathy.

"I have heard with the greatest sadness of the terrible loss of life of a family in Buncrana," he said.

"My heart goes out to the family and loved ones".

A book of condolence will open today in Buncrana, Co Donegal for the victims.


Yesterday, eyewitness Francis Crawford - who was the first person at the scene - gave a harrowing account of what he saw on the pier to Newstalk Breakfast.