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Northern Ireland news

Buncrana pier tragedy: Stephanie Knox claims she never intended to sue the estate of Sean McGrotty

 Stephanie Knox and the scene of the tragedy in Buncrana
Seamus McKinney

A woman who helped at the scene of the Buncrana pier tragedy said she never intended to make a made a claim against the estate of one of those who died.

Late last night Derry woman Stephanie Knox posted on Facebook that she assumed her claim would have been against Donegal County Council and an insurance company.

“Never in my life did I think it would be coming from the family,” she wrote.

She said lodged a claim because she had been suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder since the tragedy.

“I’m under so much stress and heartache and I would love it to just blow over,” the health worker told The Independent.

“I knew there was a claim being made against the council and the insurance company...I know what they’re [the family] going through is hard.”

A solicitor for Ms Knox told the Irish News last night she did not send a letter claiming compensation to Sean McGrotty's elderly father.

However, he confirmed that "she is making a claim, on the advice of her legal team, against Donegal county council and the estate for injuries sustained”.

Maoliosa Barr, of Barr and Company Solicitors in Derry, said "she did not send any letter to the McGrotty family".

It is understood it was sent by the Dublin-based Personal Injuries Assessment Board, which provides independent assessments of non-medical compensation claims in the Republic.

Noel McGrotty (86) received notification of the claim shortly before last week’s second anniversary of the tragedy.

Stephanie Knox was with her then boyfriend Davitt Walsh when he rescued baby Ríoghnach

Sean (48) died along with his sons Mark (12) and Evan (8), their maternal grandmother Ruth Daniels (58) and aunt Jodie-Lee Daniels (14) when their car slid into Lough Swilly from Buncrana pier on March 20 2016.

Mr McGrotty's baby daughter Ríoghnach was saved when Donegal man Davitt Walsh swam from the pier and rescued her moments before the Audi disappeared under water.

From left, Buncrana pier victims Mark (12) and Evan McGrotty (8), Sean McGrotty (49), Ruth Daniels (57) and Jodie Lee Daniels (14)

It has now emerged that Mr Walsh’s then girlfriend Ms Knox lodged a claim for an undisclosed amount from Sean McGrotty’s estate as well as Donegal county council which owns Buncrana pier.

She watched the tragedy unfold and took the baby from Mr Walsh and tended to her until help arrived.

The couple are no longer in a relationship.

Mr McGrotty snr told The Derry News that he received the claim by “private delivery” for which he had to sign.

“It was a big envelope full of legal documents. Then I saw the name Knox and realised it was from the girl that took the baby when she was brought out of the water that day,” he said.

The pensioner said he did not know why the claim was sent to him as he was not the executor of his son’s estate.

Sean McGrotty with his partner Louise holding their baby daughter alongside their sons Mark (12) and Evan, eight

The news provoked a huge reaction on social media sites yesterday.

SDLP assembly member and former Stormont minister Mark H Durkan said his reaction was "one of shock and disbelief".

He added that when he learned the letter was received shortly before the second anniversary he was "stuck for words".

A solicitor for Ms Knox told The Irish News that she contacted him after news of the letter broke yesterday.

Baby Rioghnach McGrotty and her mum Louise at their home in Derry in June 2016. Picture by Margaret McLaughlin 

Mark H Durkan 

Read more: Buncrana pier victim's partner Louise James says 'My heart is shattered'

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