Man who escaped sinking car in Donegal tells victim's family of last moments

Man who escaped sinking car in Donegal tells victim's family of last moments
Leigh Early. Pic via Facebook page of Arranmore Ferry.

Update 3.15pm: The man who escaped from the sinking wreckage of a car which claimed the life of another young man off Co Donegal has told the dead man's family of his last tragic moments.

Leigh Early perished when his car slid off a pier on Arranmore Island into freezing waters just after 5am on Sunday morning.

The 26-year-old drowned but another man in his 30s managed to swim to safety from the stricken car off Poolawaddy Pier.

Now it has been revealed how the man was able to pinpoint the exact location of the car before it was swept out to sea.

Island spokesperson Jerry Early, a cousin of the dead man's father Jimmy, said it is a small but very comforting consolation for the bereaved family.

"The man who survived has been able to speak to the family. He is devastated at what happened.

"He is full of sadness and has so many questions of his own he is trying to answer.

We have lost one of our community and we could have lost two and we are thankful that it is not the case.

"It is a small comfort but at least he was able to tell Leigh's family what happened and they will not be left wondering what exactly did happen in the years to come.

"He was also a great help to the lifeboat in locating the car and locating Leigh as it could have been swept out to sea," said Mr Early.

A full investigation into the circumstances surrounding the tragedy has been launched by gardaí.

Leigh's remains were taken by the Arranmore Ferry back to the island at 5pm today after a post mortem was carried out at Letterkenny University Hospital.

Mr Early said the entire island is just "numb" with the loss of one of their own.

He said that Leigh was a real islander who would be one of the people expected to remain living on the island despite the challenges which constantly face the population of around 450 inhabitants.

"He was a real islander. If he was in Letterkenny he'd be longing to get back to the island. He was one of the people you would look to who would be driving the island forward.

He was a devil and an angel. He would always be in the background but you could always depend on him. He was full of fun, full of devilment.

"The island is just numb and the people are numb. We will regroup as a community and we will come together in the coming days and help the Early family as best we can. That's what island communities are best at, looking after each other," he said.

Leigh was also a volunteer with the local RNLI and his father is the coxswain of the island's lifeboat.

It has also been revealed how the RNLI offered to stand down the lifeboat for the coming days in light of the tragedy but the offered was declined by the dedicated crew from the island.

A huge gathering is expected for Leigh's funeral which takes place on Wednesday at noon at St Crone's Church with burial later in the adjoining cemetery.

The local Arranmore Hostel has offered free accommodation to anybody traveling to the island for the wake or the funeral.

Leigh is survived by his father Jimmy, mother Noreen, brother Adam, sisters Rachel and Laura and a wide circle of family and friends.

Earlier: Hostel offers free rooms for mourners attending funeral of man who drowned after car slipped into sea

Man who escaped sinking car in Donegal tells victim's family of last moments

Update 12.17pm: The owners of a hostel on Arranmore Island off Co. Donegal have offered a hand of friendship and comfort to those traveling for the funeral of tragic Leigh Early.

The popular 26-year-old ferry skipper died after his car slipped off the pier in the early hours of yesterday morning.

A passenger in the car, a man in his 30s, managed to escape from the car and was unhurt.

The death of the popular single man, who was also a volunteer with the local RNLI lifeboat crew, has rocked the tight-knit island community.

A post mortem is due to be carried out on Leigh's body today at Letterkenny University Hospital to determine an official cause of death.

His remains will then be taken back to the island on the 5pm ferry sailing to his beloved island home.

The local Arranmore Hostel has opened up its doors to anybody touched by Leigh's death and who may be traveling to the island for his wake and funeral.

A spokesman for the hostel confirmed: "For anyone who may be travelling to Arranmore for the wake and funeral of Leigh Early and needs somewhere to stay, there are plenty of beds in the hostel free of charge."

Tributes continue to flow in for Lee who is survived by his dad Jimmy, mum Noreen, brother Adam and sisters Rachel and Laura.

Leigh was working with the Arranmore Ferry who paid this tribute to him.

It stated "Today we woke to the terrible news that our Skipper Leigh Early had lost his life in a tragic accident.

"The day has been filled with immense sadness along with so many condolences all of which referred to Leigh as a gentleman and a highly competent skipper who excelled at his work despite his young age.

"We as a crew are devastated to have lost such a special friend and colleague. Leigh was a pleasure to work with and he has left a void in our work family that will never be filled.

"We extend our deepest sympathy to his parents Jimmy & Noreen, his brother Adam and sisters Rachael and Laura. Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam."


More in this Section

Two men held after digger used in double ATM theftTwo men held after digger used in double ATM theft

8 National Parks and Nature Reserves to close for Storm Atiyah8 National Parks and Nature Reserves to close for Storm Atiyah

Man due in court over drug, gold and alcohol seizureMan due in court over drug, gold and alcohol seizure

Restricting TDs and Senators from double-jobbing 'needs consideration', says TaoiseachRestricting TDs and Senators from double-jobbing 'needs consideration', says Taoiseach


Lifestyle

Laura Williams reveals her 10-minute top-to-toe workout.Is this is the ultimate party-season body blitz?

More From The Irish Examiner