Verdicts of death by misadventure returned for all five Buncrana victims

Five members of an extended family drowned in the incident in March last year - including three children

Verdicts of death by misadventure returned for all five Buncrana victims

Flowers left at the scene at Buncrana Pier in Co Donegal in 2016 | Image: Niall Carson/PA Archive/PA Images

Updated 20.20

The deaths of all five people who drowned in the Buncrana pier tragedy have been ruled as death by misadventure.

A two-day inquest into the deaths made the ruling, which differs from death by accident in that some element of risk was introduced.

The coroner involved said that describing the tragedy as terrible and devastating for the family didn't even begin to describe it.

49-year-old Sean McGrotty was behind the wheel of the car that entered the water at Buncrana pier in March of 2016.

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.

Louise James, who lost her partner, mother, sister and two sons in the Buncrana pier tragedy, says her heart is shattered.

Her solicitor Robert Anderson read this statement on her behalf after the inquest.

She said she firmly believes "the slipway should have been closed to the general public, or else proper warning signs displayed, as it was an accident waiting to happen".

The inquest heard yesterday that Mr McGrotty was more than three times over the legal drink driving limit at the time of the incident.

Death by midadventure differs from accidental death in that some form of risk was introduced into the situation.

That may be that Mr McGrotty had been drinking, but could be a number of other factors.

That the car was on a slipway; the slope into the water; the presence of slippery algae; and the fact that the slipway was open to the public and not gated off were other risks that may have been considered in the verdict.

The jury also recommended that Irish Water Safety takes a permanent role is advising all interested parties in safety around all piers and slipways nationally.

Dr Denis McCauley, Coroner for Donegal, expressed his condolences to the families involved following the verdict.

He praised the emergency services, who were at the scene within four minutes of getting a phonecall about the incident on the night in question.

He praised the jury for their verdict as well saying it was one of the largest recommendations he had seen to go and get water safety issues sorted.

Garda Inspector David Murphy also highlighted the bravery of Davitt Walsh who rescued baby Riodhnach-Ann from the sinking car.

He was described as an ordinary man who did something extraordinary.


Earlier, the CEO of Irish Water Safety recommended that tools for breaking the window of a car be included with every car sold.

John Leech made the point that a tool which could cut seatbelts and break windows could be bought cheaply and included in cars.

He said it may help people to escape from a car should they become trapped after entering the water.

They inquest also heard technical testimony from Audi Ireland who say the doors of Sean McGrotty's car should have opened even if they were in water.

Though the diver who first saw the car after it sank said he couldn't open the doors when he tried underwater.