Latest: Families of Buncrana pier tragedy victims release statement
- Five people have died after a car came off a pier in Buncrana, Co Donegal last night.
- A four-month-old baby girl, Rionaghac-Ann, was pulled alive from the water by a passerby and later taken to Letterkenny General Hospital, where she is recovering well.
- The victims have been named as Sean McGrotty (aged 49), his sons Mark (aged 12), and Evan (aged 8), his mother-in-law Ruth Daniels (aged 59) and her daughter Jodie Lee Daniels (aged 14)
- Louise, Mr McGrotty's wife, had been away on a hen weekend.
Update 5.28pm: The families of the victims of last night’s tragedy in Buncrana have released a statement.
It was issued on their request by Derry MLA Raymond McCartney.
“Our families have been devastated by the tragic events of last night in which five members of our family died in a terrible accident,” it stated.
“The family has been inundated with support and sympathy from the local community and further afield and this is deeply appreciated.
“We are now requesting that the media respect our family’s wishes for privacy at this time.”
Earlier: The baby was taken to Letterkenny General Hospital and is said to be recovering well.
Supt Colm Nevin has said the baby girl rescued from the car in Buncrana is doing very well in hospitalhttps://t.co/NmQ3gsIQqa— RTÉ News (@rtenews) March 21, 2016
"Sabina and I wish to express our deepest sympathies to the McGrotty family and their communities." - President Michael D. Higgins— President of Ireland (@PresidentIRL) March 21, 2016
Update 1.24pm: The volunteer lifeboat crew and station management at Lough Swilly RNLI have extended their deepest sympathies to the families and loved ones of the five people who lost their lives at Buncrana Pier.
“Our volunteer lifeboat crew were one of the first emergency services on scene and recovered the five casualties from the water,” said John McCarter, Lough Swilly RNLI lifeboat operations manager.
“We were devastated to learn subsequently that those five people, including young children, had lost their lives.
“We wish to commend the actions of the member of the public who selflessly entered the water and rescued the baby and we wish them both a full recovery.
“While our volunteer lifeboat crew train for and respond to every possible incident, the events in our community last night, were extremely tragic and challenging for our lifeboat crew.
“I want to thank our volunteer lifeboat crew along with the other emergency services and members of the public who responded to this emergency for their professionalism and their courage.
“Our thoughts are now with the families who have lost loved ones in this awful tragedy.’
Flowers have been left at the pier in Buncrana, where five people died after a vehicle entered the waterhttps://t.co/YXxX6B0w02— RTÉ News (@rtenews) March 21, 2016
Update 11.25am: A book of condolences is to open in Derry in the coming days.
Mayor of Derry City and Strabane District Council Elisha McCallion said: "This is a terrible tragedy that has affected the entire community in Derry and Donegal and left all of us numb.
"Who would have thought that a family day out could have ended so tragically? It is beyond belief and I can't put into words how sorry I am for the family and those affected by this dreadful accident."
John McArthur, Operations Manager with Lough Swilly RNLI, describes the rescue and recovery effort at Buncranahttps://t.co/0m8JutqMFc— RTÉ News (@rtenews) March 21, 2016
Update 10.45am: Joe Joyce, spokesman for the RNLI in Buncrana, says the car sank quickly once it entered the sea.
He said: "You were talking literally seconds. We were at about half tide which exposes a certain part of the slipway that has a bit of algae and once the car got caught in it, it just started to slide down.
"It slid into the water, for a little while it floated out and then sank into about 10 feet of water."
Update 10.30am: Father John Walshe who is the curate at Buncrana parish was called to the scene by gardaí last night.
He said: "When I got there, there were four bodies on the pier. I anointed the four dead people - a man, a woman and two boys.
"Then the emergency services brought the body of a girl who was older than the boys, I thought, maybe a young teenager perhaps," he added.
Update 10.15am: Eyewitness Francis Crawford said he watched the driver of the car scream for help as it slid into the sea off a pier.
"The man was still shouting to me when the car went down. It was very sad," he said.
"There was nothing I could do or nothing anybody could do.
"Any of the people who could do something were coming as quick as they could and got here in great time and knew what to do.
"But it was all too late. There was nothing anybody could do. Everybody did what they could and it was too late."
Mr Crawford said the man who swam out to the car was a hero and risked his own life.
"How he got (the baby) ... they are saying it was handed out to him," Mr Crawford said.
"When he came back he was totally exhausted. I think if he had another five yards to go - I can't see how he would have made it."
A number of the people in the car are related.
Mr Crawford described the panic that ensued with the car sinking within 10 minutes of it sliding down the slipway.
"All the time the car was bobbling about and I knew the services were all on their way and I was hoping against hope that the car would stay up until the people came," he said.
"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."
Mr Crawford broke down in tears recalling the final moments.
"It was harrowing and heart-rending," he said.
"I don't want to go into details.
"Feeling hopeless and helpless. Nothing you could do and the man (driver) was shouting to me and I said 'I've phoned them, everyone is on their way' and he was still shouting.
"You felt so hopeless and you watched it unfolding in front of your eyes.
"It was a surreal sort of thing."
Update 9.05am: Francis Crawford says a two-month-old baby girl, who was also in the car, was rescued by a passerby who swam out to the vehicle.
He said: "I saw this car out a bit from the concrete and I said to my wife 'if those people don't get back, they're not going to be able to get back'.
"I opened my window, and I shouted 'Are you alright?' and the man shouted 'phone the coast guard, phone the coast guard'.
"A man came along and I asked him if he could swim, and he said he could, so I said 'please, please, please'. And he stripped down into his underwear and away he went and he literally risked his life and he came back with the wee baby."
Update 8.15am: Jack Murray, local Sinn Féin 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 RTÉ Radio.
Update 7.20am: Padraig MacLochlainn, a former Sinn Féin TD for Donegal, is from Buncrana.
He was at the pier last night and he said: "There's a slipway on the right hand side of the pier that would have facilitated the ferry from Buncrana to Rathmullen.
"That ferry doesn't run this time of year, so what is being reported is that the family vehicle may have caught the green algae that's there at a point of the slipway and may have been pulled in the water.
"Now that's what is being report, that's not confirmed yet."
Earlier: There were six people in the SUV when it went off the pier on the Inishowen Peninsula shortly after 7pm last night.
At present Gardaí are treating the drownings as a tragic accident and say the car, believed to have a Northern Ireland registration plate, may have accidentally slipped into the water.
Of the six in the vehicle, five bodies have been recovered a man, a woman, two boys and girl - whose ages have yet to be confirmed.
A two-month old baby, who it is believed was thrown from the vehicle and rescued by a bystander, is currently in a stable condition at Letterkenny General Hospital.
Post mortems on the victims will also take place there.
The jeep was pulled from the water at around 9pm last night and removed from the scene.
Gardaí are due to hold a case conference on the incident this morning.
Buncrana councillor Rena Donaghy said it was a "tragedy of enormous magnitude".
She said: "I've been standing at the pier with so many others from the town looking out at blue flashing lights on the water in a state of complete shock.
"People here can't believe what they're hearing, can't believe what they're seeing."
She described how the town had been "buzzing with people" before the incident, many of whom had arrived to enjoy the weather.
"It was so scenic and happy and now happiness has turned to tragedy," she added.