Buncrana pier deaths: Adults and children ‘were from Derry'
FIVE people, including a number of children, have died after a vehicle went off a pier in Co Donegal, according to reports.
It is understood six people were in the vehicle when it went into the water at Buncrana shortly after 7pm on Sunday.
The victims are believed to be from the Creggan area of Derry.
A major air and sea search had been mounted and the bodies of two adults and three children of primary school age were recovered.
In a statement late on Sunday night, Gardai said they were treating the incident as a "tragic accident" and are investigating if "the car may have accidentally slipped into the water".
The statement added: "Gardai, emergency services and the coast guard attended the scene following reports that a car had entered the water at Buncrana Pier.
"A search of the area was carried out and five bodies were recovered from the water, three males, one adult/two children and two females, one adult and the age of the second to be established.
"The five bodies were taken to Letterkenny General Hospital where post mortems are to be arranged."
"A baby girl was rescued from the car, with the assistance of a bystander. The baby is currently in a stable condition at Letterkenny General Hospital," they added and appealed for witnesses to come forward.
Malin Head Coast Guard confirmed that an infant had been recovered alive and has been taken to the nearby Letterkenny hospital.
The baby girl, thought to be two months old, is undergoing emergency treatment and is understood to be in a stable condition.
She was rescued from the car, with the assistance of a bystander.
The exact circumstances of how the car, believed to have a Northern Ireland registration plate, ended up in the water have not yet been determined.
Two lifeboats, a helicopter and local fishing boats were involved in the efforts to save those trapped inside the car.
There were unconfirmed reports that the young child was handed out a window to rescuers while the other children are thought to be of primary school age.
There's been a tragedy in Buncrana at pier - 4 feared dead - pray for all concerned— MEP Martina Anderson (@MEPStandingUp4U) March 20, 2016
Witnesses have described the scene as chaotic.
The car was later removed for a detailed examination.
The pier is a popular attraction for tourists and locals and it is believed the family may have stopped to admire the sunset.
Buncrana is approximately 20 minutes' drive away from Derry and the seaside town is a popular destination for daytrippers.
There has been an outpouring of grief on social media.
Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness said he was saddened by the news.
He said in a statement: "My thoughts and prayers are with all of those affected by the devastating tragedy unfolding in Buncrana this evening.
"Our thoughts and appreciation must also be with the emergency services who have had to deal with this tragic situation."
He also wrote on Twitter: "Very sad news of fatalities in an incident at Buncrana Pier tonight. Thoughts are with relatives of those involved and rescue services."
Very sad news of fatalities in an incident at Buncrana Pier tonight.Thoughts are with relatives of those involved & rescue services. #Tragic— Martin McGuinness (@M_McGuinness_SF) March 20, 2016
Jack Murray, local Sinn Fein councillor in Inishowen, said the accident had brought back memories of past tragedies.
"I don't know what to say about it, it's just awful," he said.
Mr Murray was among a large group of local people who came to the pier when news of the incident broke.
"People who had gathered there were just devastated, it was just complete silence from everybody who was standing there," he said.
"It seems the baby was passed out as the car was sinking. The baby was passed out the window - a local who had been there tried to help and managed to recover the baby at that point.
"At this point I wouldn't apportion any blame if there was signage or barriers - at this point it's just trying to recover from what happened," he told RTE Radio.