Mother tells inquest she ‘sensed’ tragic drowning

Louise James arriving at the inquest in Buncrana. Pictures: North West Newspix

A woman who lost her mother, partner, sister and two boys in the Buncrana, Co Donegal drowning tragedy has told how she knew something was wrong the moment the phone rang.

Louise James told the inquest into the deaths of five members of her family that she last saw them on March 18. Minutes before the tragedy, at 6.55pm on Sunday 20, she had spoken by phone with her sister Jodi Lee and boys who were playing in a playpark on the shorefront in Buncrana.

A short time later while at the airport on her journey home from a hen party, she received a call at 7.25pm from her brother Joshua.

“I got a feeling something wasn’t right,” she said.

Her brother told her that her partner Sean McGrotty, aged 49, two boys Evan McGrotty, aged eight and 12-year-old brother Mark, grandmother Ruth Daniels, 59, and her 14-year-old sister, Jodie Lee Daniels, had died when their SUV sank after sliding off a “slippery as ice” slipway in Buncrana.

The inquest heard Mr McGrotty, who was driving, was three times over the drink-drive limit, a post-mortem showed.

He was found to have consumed 159 milligrams of alcohol per 100 millilitres of blood, when the drink drive limit is only 50.

It also heard a rescuer held a boy’s hand and attempted to pull him free from the sinking car. Davitt Walsh battled to extract the child from the vehicle as it sank in the freezing waters of Lough Swilly but let go after he feared he would be sucked under the water.

Davitt Walsh, who swam out into the harbour in an effort to save six occupants of an Audi Q7 that plunged off a pier, arrives at the Lake of Shadows Hotel in Buncrana, Co Donegal, for the inquest.

He swam out to the Audi A7 in a desperate bid to avert tragedy and succeeded in rescuing a baby. Mr Walsh said: “I saw a young boy inside the car trying to clamber out past the driver. I reached in and grabbed the wee boy, I tried to pull the wee boy out but he seemed to get stuck on something.

“Just as I was trying to pull the wee boy out of the car the water rushed in and I had to let go.

“The father climbed back into the car, looked back at me and said ‘save my baby’.”

The water gushed in and the car went under the water. He said: “I had to let go because I was struggling as hard as I could to avoid getting sucked into the water.”

Sean McGrotty handed his four-month-old daughter Rionaghac-Ann to the former footballer through the broken driver’s side window just moments before the vehicle sank.

The inquest continues today.

News: 5

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