Buncrana Pier tragedy inquest will be held in November

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

AN inquest into the Buncrana Pier tragedy in which five members of the same family drowned will be held over two days in November.

Sean McGrotty (48), his sons, Mark (12) and Evan (8) along with the boys' grandmother, Ruth Daniels (58) and their aunt, Jodie-Lee (14) drowned when their Audi car slid on algae on Buncrana pier into Lough Swilly in March 2016.

The only survivor was Mr McGrotty's four-month-old daughter, Ríoghnach who was rescued when her father passed her from the car to a rescuer who swam out to help.

Mr McGrotty's partner, Louise James was not present at yesterday's short hearing although other members of the Mr McGrotty's family did attend.

Donegal coroner, Denis McCauley said 69 draft depositions from people who were present on the night of the tragedy – including rescue personnel - had been collected. However, these have been condensed to 12 for a jury.

Dr McCauley told the 20-minute hearing he opted to call a pre-evidential hearing to ensure there would be no adjournments when the inquest proper starts and to promote an “effective inquisitorial process.”

He said: “This was a terrible tragedy and having looked at a lot of the evidence, I think because of the scope of the inquest I would propose we have a look at the events of the night and what actually happened.”

Dr McCauley proposed that as well as exploring all the facts surrounding the tragedy, he should also look at piers and slipways around Donegal to obtain as much information as possible.

The Donegal coroner said he had asked the county council – who manage the pier – for all internal and external reports on piers and for any risk assessment on Buncrana pier carried out before the tragedy.

He has also asked the Irish Water Safety Authority to attend the inquest as well as a representative of the Republic's Road Safety Authority. Dr McCauley said that while the inquest process might appear impersonal, it was useful as it provided facts.

The inquest is scheduled to be held on Wednesday and Thursday, November 22 and 23.

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