Buncrana pier tragedy witness makes claim for damages

Stephanie Knox says she believed the claim was against the council - and not the deceased family

A woman who assisted at the scene during the Buncrana Pier tragedy is suing the estate of the dead family.

Five members of one family were killed in the March 2016 tragedy.

Sean McGrotty, his two sons 12-year-old Mark and 8-year-old Evan; their Grandmother Ruth Daniels and her 14-year-old daughter Jodie Lee all died when their car slid into the sea off the pier.

Mr McGrotty's infant daughter Rioghnach-Ann was the sole survivor, after she was rescued by passer by Davitt Walsh who had dived into the water to help.

File photo of Davitt Walsh who saved baby Rioghnach-Ann during the Buncran Pier tragedy, 22-11-2017. Image: Niall Carson/PA Wire/PA Images

Mr Walsh's then-girlfriend Stephanie Knox tended to the baby until the emergency services arrived.

It has since emerged Ms Knox has issued proceedings against the estate of the dead family and against Donegal County.

Mr McGrotty's 86-year-old father Noel told Derry Now that he received a letter from Ms Knox's solicitors advising him that she wished to claim an undisclosed amount from the estate of his late son  for loss of earnings and other matters.

Estate

Journalist Katie O'Neill has details about the latest development in the story:

"Stephanie Knox was obviously there at the scene," she said. "She took Riaghnach-Ann from her partner Davitt Walsh and warmed the baby until the emergency services got there," she said.

"I have been informed by Stephanie's lawyer that she is suing the estate of the deceased's family - so it is an important distinction; she is not suing the living family.

"She is suing for undisclosed damages for loss of earnings and for other matters."

Backlash

However, in a Facebook post yesterday evening, Ms Knox's sister Laura said her sister believed the claim was against Donegal County Council.

"Stephanie was informed by the Gardaí that people who were on the pier that day were claiming so Stephanie went to her solicitor for advice," she wrote.

"Stephanie would never be as spiteful to claim off an 86 year old man.

"She was under the impression that the claim was against the Donegal council and due to the same reason that the family were claiming for - algae being on the slipway and other reasons.

"That day has ruined her life forever witnessing five people die in front of her and her life will never be the same."

Misadventure

Concerns have been raised over the level of algae on the slipway at the time - with one witness describing it as slippery as ice.

A two-day inquest into the deaths last November ruled that all five family members had died by misadventure.

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

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

There are a number of elements to the incident that may have been considered as risk factors.

The fact Mr McGrotty had been drinking; the fact the car was on a slipway; the steep 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 all risks that may have been considered.