Council carries out overhaul of Buncrana tragedy pier

The Buncrana to Rathmullan ferry service on the slipway at Buncrana pier in Donegal. Picture Margaret McLaughlin
Seamus McKinney

NEW regulations and signs have been introduced at the scene of the Buncrana pier tragedy which claimed the lives of five members of the same family in March.

Donegal county council introduced the new measures - as well as replacing damaged lifebelts - in advance of the summer operation of the Lough Swilly car ferry between Buncrana and Rathmullan. However, a detailed review of safety measures at the pier has not yet been completed by the authority.

On March 20 this year, five members of the family of Derry woman, Louise James drowned when their car slid into the sea on algae on Buncrana pier.

Ms James’s partner, Sean McGrotty (48), sons, Mark (12) and Evan (8), sister, Jodie-Lee (14) and mum, Ruth Daniels (58) drowned.

Four-month-old baby daughter, Ríoghnach survived when her dad passed her from the sinking car into the arms of Davitt Walsh who had swam from the pier in a desperate effort to help the family.

In an interview with the Irish News earlier this month, Ms James revealed that the tragedy had touched the hearts of people across the world.

Before the tragedy, the slipway remained open all the time to facilitate the launch of boats and other sea craft such a jet skis. It emerged after the drownings, that cars had got into difficulty on algae on the pier in the past and a gate on the slipway was subsequently shut and has remained closed since the drownings.

However, council workers have now carried out an overhaul of the pier and slipway in advance of the ferry starting summer operations at the weekend.

Watch the family's funeral:

A spokeswoman for Donegal county council said workers treated and removed algae on Thursday last in preparation for the ferry service.

She said sodium hypochlorite was applied to the algae and the slipway was pressure washed the following day.

“It is not possible to remove the algae that is under water. The situation will continue to be monitored over the next three months while the ferry is in operation.

“The ferry operator has signs in place to help control traffic wishing to board the ferry and traffic is directed down the slipway and onto the ferry by the ferry crew,” she said.

The spokeswoman said: “The gate at Buncrana remains open while the ferry operates between 10am and 8pm and is then closed and locked by the ferry operator at night.”

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