Jetty warning after Buncrana tragedy

The scene at the Pier in Buncrana Co Donegal where five people died after the car they were in slipped into the water and sank    Picture: Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker

The scene at the Pier in Buncrana Co Donegal where five people died after the car they were in slipped into the water and sank Picture: Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker

WITH many families descending on Lough Erne and south Donegal this week for Easter, a warning has been issued to be aware of the dangers posed by the build-up of algae on piers, jetties and other lake and sea facilties. 
The alert follows the weekend tragedy in north Donegal in which a family of five from Derry lost their lives.  
Lisbellaw-based powerboat instructor Hugh Poore of WaveRides is urging caution over the holiday season and highlighting the fact that people often underestimate the potential risk posed by the substance.   
“Anything green near the water’s edge is risky. Once you get caught on algae it is very difficult to get out of it. And if you go down too far on a slipway, you risk slipping on it. It can be absolutely lethal and is literally more dangerous than a sheet of ice. 
“Anyone landing a boat should be aware of the importance of good footwear and having something to hold on to before they go anywhere near it. It’s also vital that families keep young children away from it because of the danger it can pose to life,” he added. 
Waterways Ireland, which manages the jetties on the Erne, is also urging people to exercise extreme caution along our lough shore slipways where the water will have been undisturbed during the winter months. 
“In light of the recent tragedy in Donegal, Waterways Ireland would like to remind visitors to waterfront locations to exercise care, to park in designated parking areas and avoid slipways unless using them to launch and retrieve boats,” a spokesman said. 
Sean McGrotty (49) was the driver of the Audi SUV that slid off Buncrana pier and sank in Lough Swilly shortly after 7.30pm on Sunday. Mr McGrotty died along with his sons Mark (12) and eight-year-old Evan, his mother-in-law Ruth Daniels (59) and her 14-year-old daughter Jodie Lee.
His four month old baby daughter Rionaghac-Ann was pulled from the water by a heroic bystander who saw the car go over the water’s edge. The mother of the children was on a hen weekend in England at the time of the tragedy.
Eyewitnesses say Mr McGrotty had been turning at the end of the pier when the wheels of his car failed to grip. This particular slipway structure, like many others, is prone to a build-up of thick algae. Once the family car began slipping on the green slime, the weight of the engine pulled it into the water. 
Members of Enniskillen RNLI have also paid tribute to their colleagues in the Lough Swilly lifeboat who attended the scene but were unable to assist. 
“This tragedy in Buncrana has shocked and saddened everyone. Our sympathies are with the families who have lost loved ones and our thoughts are with our colleagues in Lough Swilly RNLI who were on scene last Sunday,” a spokesman said. 
Politicians on both sides of the border and from across the political spectrum have been united in grief since news of the disaster emerged with the First Minister Arlene Foster describing it as “heartbreaking and terrible”. 


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