Published: Fri, November 24, 2017
Health Care | By Oscar Goodwin

Auto drowning father three times the limit

Auto drowning father three times the limit

Mr Walsh said: "When the driver sat on the window ledge I remember the vehicle tilted and the water then started to gush into the auto".

Earlier on Thursday an RNLI crew member involved in trying to save the family said there had been similar incidents at the pier over the last two decades.

Rioghnach-Ann McGrotty, the four-month-old daughter of Mr McGrotty and his partner Louise James was rescued from the auto, an Audi Q7, by Donegal man Davitt Walsh.

Louise's mother Ruth Daniels (57) and her sister Jodie Lee Tracey (14) all lost their lives in the accident on March 20, 2016.

A jury found the five victims died by misadventure following a two-day inquest in Buncrana, Co Donegal, near where the accident happened in March previous year.

"The father climbed back into the vehicle, looked back and me and said "save my baby". I told recovery I couldn't get the doors open".

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He said the response times of the emergency services were incredible.

"I made a point to stay away from it", he continued. "The tailgate at the back of the vehicle was open".

The couple had parked up for about five minutes and then chose to leave.

John O'Raw, a RNLI volunteer diver, said the water was about three metres deep and visibility was an issue.

He said Francis Crawford and his wife, Kay, were on the slipway at the time.

The auto was towed from the water by the Fire Brigade and a baby's bag found in it helped to identify those who had died.

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He said he could not imagine what the victims' families were going through.

They inquest also heard technical testimony from Audi Ireland who say the doors of Sean McGrotty's auto should have opened even if they were in water. "The father on the driver's side passed me out the baby".

Mr Walsh revealed that Mr McGrotty smashed a window and passed him Rioghnach-Ann before water started to rush in.

Mr O'Raw tried to open the four side doors of the auto, which was then in about three metres of water, but was unable to.

"I reached in and grabbed the wee boy".

Mr Boyle of Audi said the company had tested the effects of submerging its cars in water. I had to let go because I was struggling as hard as I could to avoid getting sucked into the water. "It was like a massive wave of water rushing into the vehicle".

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Sean McGrotty with wife Louise, baby Rionaghac-Ann, and sons Evan, 8, and Mark, 12.

Davitt said he swam back using the back stroke as it was the safest way to keep the baby out of the water.

"I couldn't get the door open", he said. The baby was handed to a woman on the pier and warmed up in Walsh's auto. The priority was to get children out first and then adults. "Thank you for all the help you gave them".

Mr Boyle replied "yes" when specifically asked should Mr McGrotty and others in the vehicle have been able to unlock the doors as it drifted and sank into the water. The Audi driven by Mr McGrotty was a 2006 model.

He also related how he fell on the slippery algae on that evening and "was lucky not to have cracked my head" at the scene.

The inquest also heard heard a statement from Davitt Walsh, a former footballer who rescued the infant after swimming out to help the family.

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Mr Walsh was told by Keith O'Grady, a barrister instructed by Declan Hegarty of Allianz Insurance, the insurers of the late Mr McGrotty: "Your actions were extraordinary". "I'm glad you did".

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