Northern Ireland news

'Save my baby' plea as father handed daughter to rescuer

 Davitt Walsh told how Sean McGrotty said "Save my baby" seconds before he went back into the submerged vehicle

THE man who rescued the sole survivor of the Buncrana pier tragedy described the heartbreaking moments before five members of one family lost their lives.

Davitt Walsh told how Sean McGrotty said "Save my baby" seconds before he went back into the submerged vehicle.

The former Institute, Finn Harps and Ballymena United footballer has been hailed a hero for jumping into the water after the Audi Q7 slipped off the Co Donegal pier on Sunday.

Mr McGrotty was travelling with his daughter Rionagh-Ann, sons Mark and Evan, mother-in-law Ruth Daniels and her daughter Jodie Lee-Daniels when the tragedy unfolded.

In an emotional interview, Mr Walsh, from Kerrykeel in Donegal, described how the father could have saved himself but decided to return to his family.

"It was terrible. I didn't know how I was going to help or what was going to happen," he told RTÉ.

"The baby was handed to me. When it happened, the father looked at me and he had to make a decision.

"He could have saved himself because he was out of the car. But he went back into his family. I couldn’t do nothing else. The car went down instantly."

Mr Walsh had played a game for Donegal side Fanad United on Sunday before travelling to Buncrana for a drive with his girlfriend Stephanie Knox when they came across the horrific scene.

"We got out of the car and there was a guy there, I think his name was Francis," he said.

"I took my phone and gave it to my girlfriend. I just didn't really think, Stephie said go and help them.

"So I took off my clothes down to my boxers and just swam out as fast as I could.

"I got out to the family. Just when I got out there, the father had the window just half ajar, he was hitting it with his elbow to break it. I'm guessing the electrics broke.

"I started shouting, 'Please, everyone has to get out of the car. The car’s going to go down. Please get out'.

"At this stage the window was broke and the father sat out on the ledge of the window.

"The water started to seep in. He then handed me the baby infant. He said, 'Take the baby'. He just looked at me, 'Save my baby'.

"I took the baby and I held it above my head and swam back to shore."

He added: "The younger child was trying to get out of the back. I think deep down he (Sean) knew he was only going to save one person".

Mr Walsh said when he brought the baby to the shore, his girlfriend stripped the child down and covered her with blankets.

"I was exhausted on the pier," he said.

"I just lay there in the algae. I feel really really terrible that I couldn't do more for the family. It's just an awful tragedy."

The other man at the pier, Francis Crawford, said he was out for an evening drive with his wife when he saw the stranded vehicle and shouted to Mr Walsh to try to help.

He described the panic as the car sank within 10 minutes of sliding down the slipway.

"I was watching the car and the nose of it started to dip and then all of a sudden the whole of it started to go down, nose first, and everything stopped," he said.

"It was harrowing and heart-rending.

“You could hear the children, it must have been the water was coming in around their feet."

Francis Crawford speaks about the tragedy:

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