Northern Ireland news

Buncrana drowning tragedy 'sent tsunami of grief across world'

Seamus McKinney
21 April, 2016 01:00

THE horror of the Buncrana drowning tragedy sent a "tsunami of grief" around the world, Derry priest Fr Paddy O’Kane told a month's mind Mass for the victims last night.

Hundreds of people packed Holy Family Church in Ballymagroarty for the Mass which took place exactly one month after the deaths of Sean McGrotty (49), his sons Mark (12) and Evan (10), their grandmother Ruth Daniels (57) and aunt Jodie-Lee Daniels (14).

The family was killed when their car slid from Buncrana pier into Lough Swilly.

The congregation was led by Mr McGrotty’s partner Louise James along with their four-month-old daughter Rioghnach-Ann, the sole survivor of the tragedy.

She was saved by Co Donegal man Davitt Walsh (29) who swam to the sinking car where her father gave him the baby before returning to his family.

Mr Walsh, along with his girlfriend Stephanie Knox, attended last night’s Mass.

The Mass was also Requiem Mass for the victims because their funeral took place on Holy Thursday when Requiem Masses are not celebrated.

Chief celebrant Fr O'Kane was joined in the sanctuary by Bishop of Derry Donal McKeown. Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness and Sinn Féin MLA Raymond McCartney also attended.

Fr O'Kane told Ms James it had been his privilege over the past four weeks to be with her as she shed tears.

"When the horror of this tragedy at Buncrana pier on that sunlit evening of Palm Sunday four weeks ago began to filter out, a tsunami of grief and sorrow spread across the world," he said.

"I have had letters and phone calls from good people from countries near and far asking me to tell Louise and her family that they are thinking about them and praying for them - books of condolences from people of many faiths. We have all been united in grief."

The Derry priest said Ms James asked him to pass her deep sense of gratitude to all and to say their support had helped her in a little way to come to terms with what has happened.

Fr O'Kane recalled the characters of the five who died. He said Mrs Daniels was blessed by God with "a love of fun and laughter". Her daughter Jodie-Lee was "beautiful, loving, caring, funny and intelligent".

Sean McGrotty was an expert glazier and a "hard grafter". Fr O’Kane said he loved Irish ballads and Ms James played the song Fiddlers’ Green for him at his graveside after last month’s funeral.

He said Mark was "happy-go-lucky" and always laughing while Evan loved school.

As Mass ended, Bishop McKeown drew applause when he thanked Fr O'Kane for all he had done.

In response, an emotional Fr O'Kane said it had been a blessing to be a "channel of God’s mercy".

"I am humbled that the Lord has used me in this way," he said.

Following Mass, there were emotional scenes as Ms James greeted friends and family.

21 April, 2016 01:00 Northern Ireland news

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