A pre-inquest hearing into the Buncrana Pier tragedy in which five members of the same family drowned has heard that first responders could not open the doors of the car which had entered the water.
Sean McGrotty and his extended family perished when their Audi Q7 jeep entered the waters of Lough Swilly on March 20th, 2016.
A full inquest into the tragedy is due to take place at Buncrana Courthouse in November.
However, a pre-evidential hearing today heard how a report by Volkswagen Ireland has disclosed the doors of the jeep could not be opened when reached by first responders on the day of the tragedy.
The issue was raised by barrister Keith O’Grady who is acting on behalf of the insurers Allianz, for the late Sean McGrotty.
Mr O’Grady addressed today’s hearing and outlined a number of issues he wanted to address before the formal inquest takes place in November.
He pointed to the report by VW Ireland in which he said it was disclosed by the company that first responders could not open the doors on the jeep.
He said he would be fully reviewing this report as well as reports by Donegal County Council into their piers and slipways as well as other reports by the Road Safety Authority and the Irish Water Safety Authority.
Mr O’Grady asked coroner Denis McCauley to release all 57 draft witness depositions calling the case “most unfortunate and unusual” and said “we have to ensure that something like this never happens again.”
He added “The when and where will not be an issue but the how and surrounding circumstances will be an issue here.
“I feel this is a case if ever there was a case for a more extensive disclosure than you may be prepared to grant.
“I need to hear what the people on the scene heard, saw and what the condition of the place was,” he said.
After consideration, Coroner Denis McCauley said he was usually quite liberal with allowing depositions into an inquest.
However, he said he did not feel the added depositions could provide anything else to the inquest
“I accept all the case law but I feel you will not be prejudiced by not having these statements,” he said.
He added that he would review all depositions again and come back to Mr O’Grady if he felt they merited being included.
Members of the McGrotty or Daniels families were not present at the hearing.
The coroner also gave a suggested running order for the two-day inquest which takes place on November 22nd and 23rd.
As well as 12 deposition statements, the coroner said he will hear evidence of the post-mortems carried out, the report by Donegal County Council, a report from Water Safety Ireland, a report from the Road Safety Authority and another report from Volkswagen Ireland.
Solicitor for Donegal County Council, Mr Michael Staines, confirmed the council had prepared a detailed independent report into its slipways and piers which was now ready.
Five members of the extended McGrotty family died on that tragic Sunday evening in March 2016.
Those who lost their lives were Sean McGrotty, his sons Mark, 11 and eight-year-old Evan, his mother-in-law Ruth Daniels and her teenage daughter Jodie-Lee Tracey.
Mr McGrotty’s infant baby girl Rionaghac-Ann was saved when her father passed her out the window to local man Davitt Walsh who bravely tried to come to the family’s aid.Tags: