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Family died after car slid off ‘ice-like’ pier into sea

Slippery: Tyre tracks on algae-covered Buncrana Pier, Co. Donegal PIC: PHOTOPRESS

FIVE members of a family died when their car slid off a pier that was ‘as slippery as ice’, an inquest heard.

Driver Sean McGrotty, 49, may have been three times over the limit as the SUV sank in the harbour, the hearing was told. The only survivor in Buncrana, Co. Donegal, was his baby daughter who Mr McGrotty handed through a broken window to a rescuer.

Pathologist Dr Catriona Dillon said Mr McGrotty had consumed 159mg of alcohol per 100ml of blood, when the limit in Ireland is 50. That could indicate an ‘element’ of intoxication, she added.

Mr McGrotty died in March 2016 alongside his sons Evan, aged eight, and Mark, 12, their grandmother Ruth Daniels, 57, and her 14-year-old daughter, Jodie Lee Daniels.

Former footballer Davitt Walsh swam out and managed to rescue Mr McGrotty’s four-month-old daughter Rionaghac-Ann. Mr Walsh — who was awarded a gold medal for bravery — said he was aware that the pier would be slippery but that a stranger would not have known.

Victims: Sean McGrotty, his sons Evan, (left), and Mark died. Baby Rionaghac-Ann was the only survivor. She is held by her mother Louise who was not in the car PIC: PA

As he swam to the car Mr McGrotty smashed a window and handed him the baby. But water then surged in ‘like a wave,’ he said. He made it back to the pier and handed the child to his girlfriend before collapsing with exhaustion.

By the time RNLI lifesavers reached the scene the Derry family’s car had disappeared into Lough Swilly and the victims were floating in the water, Francis Crawford told the inquest. ‘I could still hear people and the child screaming from the car,’ he said.

He added that the slipway was covered with algae which had made it ‘treacherous’ and ‘slippery as ice’. The Donegal hearing continues.