Buncrana tragedy: ‘Their faces will forever map the sea’

A grieving woman who lost her partner, two sons, mother, and sister in the Donegal drowning tragedy has shown unbridled courage to write and read a poem in their honour.

Buncrana tragedy: ‘Their faces will forever map the sea’

Hundreds of mourners at the funerals of the five people killed at Buncrana pier wept openly as Louise James spoke her touching words at the Holy Family Church in Derry yesterday.

Louise also thanked Davitt Walsh, who heroically swam out to sea to rescue her four-month-old baby daughter Rioghnach-Ann.

Among the touching lines in her poem was how her loved ones will always be remembered: “Their faces will forever map the sea, remembered by each and every one,” she said.

Louise James breaks down as she carries the coffin of one of her sons Picture: RollingNews.ie
Louise James breaks down as she carries the coffin of one of her sons Picture: RollingNews.ie

She thanked the emergency services, as well as local man Francis Crawford, but paid a special tribute to Mr Walsh.

She said: “Without fear for his own life and safety you entered Lough Swilly to save my Rioghnach-Ann. I will be forever grateful to you. Thank you so, so much.”

A huge chorus of applause echoed around the church in honour of Mr Walsh’s bravery and for the strength shown by the bereft mother.

On Tuesday, Mr Walsh, girlfriend Stephanie Knox, and Louise met privately and Mr Walsh got a chance to cradle the baby he had plucked from the arms of her father to bring to the safety of the shore.

In his homily yesterday, Fr Paddy O’Kane also paid tribute to Mr Walsh’s courage: “We saw it in the self-sacrifice of Seán on Sunday evening as he desperately tried to save his family. We saw that altruism again in the bravery of Davitt Walsh who saved the life of Rioghnach-Ann by swimming out to rescue her.

“Davitt, today we salute you as our hero. We had a meeting on Tuesday when Louise and her family met you to thank you for all you did and also your girlfriend Stephanie Knox for her quick thinking as she warmed the baby’s little blue body back to life.

“Louise thanked you both sincerely from the bottom of her heart and for trying to save the lives of her sons. Don’t blame yourself that you did not do more — we are so grateful for what you did, she says.”

“It could easily have been seven deaths, not five,” Louise had added, before passing the baby to Mr Walsh to hold.

And Fr O’Kane added poignantly: “We struggle today to find words to speak the unspeakable.

“We are bewildered by the intensity of this grief for I know, Louise — as I have already said — there is nothing I can say today to alleviate your pain and sense of loss.

“This is a desert experience, barren of any comfort, as we search for an oasis of hope in this bleak landscape.”

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