Northern Ireland news

Bishop and mayor lead tributes to Louise James after Buncrana pier tragedy inquest

Louise James said it was with a "heavy heart and great sadness" that she listened to the evidence given at this week's inquest. Picture by Margaret McLaughlin
Seamus McKinney

THE Catholic Bishop of Derry has paid tribute to Louise James for the dignity she showed during this week's inquest into the Buncrana pier deaths.

Donal McKeown was joined by the mayor of Derry and Strabane, Maolíosa McHugh, and SDLP assembly member Mark H Durkan in praising her courage and strength.

A jury returned a finding of death by misadventure on five members of Ms James's extended family who drowned in March last year.

The Derry woman's partner Sean McGrotty (48), her sons Mark (12) and Evan (8), her mother Ruth Daniels (58) and her sister Jodie-Lee (14) all perished when Mr McGrotty's car slid from a pier into Lough Swilly.

The only survivor was her baby daughter, Ríoghnach.

During the two-day inquest in Buncrana, Ms James sat through harrowing details of her family's final moments after they had gone on a spring evening drive to Buncrana.

RNLI members gave evidence of desperate attempts to resuscitate Evan McGrotty after his body was brought to shore. CPR was also performed on Ms Daniels' body.

The inquest heard that Mr McGrotty was over the drink-drive limit at the time of the tragedy, although pathologist Catriona Dillon said this gave no indication of his level of impairment.

In a statement at the end of the inquest, Ms James said "my heart is shattered".

Bishop McKeown said she had shown enormous dignity in the face of “unimaginable loss” and people admired her courage and strength.

“Please God, Louise will be supported in order to lead the way for so many others to look to the future and not just be a prisoner to the past.”

Mr McHugh also said Ms James's "courage and dignity has been an example to everyone”, while Mr Durkan said the people of Derry are "united in support and admiration of this amazing lady".

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