Three other vehicles have slid off 'slippery' Irish pier

Three other vehicles have slid off the 'treacherous' pier where a father's car plunged into the sea before drowning him, his two sons and two other relatives, an inquest has heard. 

Sean McGrotty, 46, was more than three times the legal drink-drive limit when his Audi Q7 jeep slid off a 'slippery as ice' slipway in Buncrana, Donegal, and sunk beneath the waters of the Lough Swilly.

With him in the car were his sons Mark, 11, and eight-year-old Evan, his mother-in-law Ruth Daniels, 57, and her 14-year-old daughter Jodie-Lee Tracey, all of whom died.

Today, a crew member from the RNLI, who dived to the vehicle when it was submerged three metres underwater, told an inquest into the deaths that there had been several other times that vehicles had slipped off the pier.

Sean McGrotty (back left) and his sons Mark, 12, and Evan, eight (pictured front) died when the Audi they were in plunged off a pier and into the water. Their baby sister Rionaghac-Ann (pictured with their mother Louise James, who was not involved in the crash) survived

Sean McGrotty (back left) and his sons Mark, 12, and Evan, eight (pictured front) died when the Audi they were in plunged off a pier and into the water. Their baby sister Rionaghac-Ann (pictured with their mother Louise James, who was not involved in the crash) survived

Ms James's mother Ruth Daniels (pictured) also perished in the tragedy

Her teenage daughter Jodie-Lee Tracey (pictured) also died

Ms James's mother Ruth Daniels, 57, (left) and Ms Daniels's teenage daughter Jodie-Lee Tracey, 14, (right) also died 

The hearing heard yesterday how the slipway was thick with algae and had there were no signs warning of potential danger.  

John O'Raw told the hearing: 'I am aware of other incidents that have occurred there. I am personally aware probably of three incidents over a 17-year career.'

During his evidence, Mr O'Raw - who reached the vehicle about 40 minutes about the 999 call - told how he tried  to open the car doors once it was submerged under water but could not manage. 

He described how the driver's window - which was a third of the way down - was smashed but had bowed inwards, still intact, creating an obstacle.

Yesterday, the hearing heard how Mr McGrotty had managed to pass his four-month-old daughter Rionaghac-Ann through the window to Davitt Walsh - a bypasser who had swam out to the car - moments before it sank. She was the sole survivor of the incident.

Mr Walsh had tried to save one of the other children, whose hand he managed to grasp, but said that he seemed to 'get stuck' on something as he did.  

Today, the coroner heard the vehicle was in a serviceable condition before the accident.

Davitt Walsh, 28 (pictured today outside the inquest), rescued a four-month-old baby from a sinking car when five other members of her family drowned inside 

Davitt Walsh, 28 (pictured today outside the inquest), rescued a four-month-old baby from a sinking car when five other members of her family drowned inside 

The 2006 vehicle had laminated windows and technical expert Garda Damien Mulkearns said that would have affected how the glass behaved after it was shattered. 

Gerard Boyle, a technical expert representing Audi, said the control unit would have shut down once wet. He said the door would have been left in the same condition it was in when it hit the water - either locked or unlocked.

The hearing heard how the car doors could have been locked at the time of the accident because rescuers were not able to get the door open.

Doors can be set to lock when the car is driven, as an anti-theft measure, the inquest was told.  

Mr Boyle said the firm did not ask to examine the car after the accident and could not comment on how its doors behaved during the incident.

He said if the door handle was used from the inside it should have opened. He was unable to comment on the vehicle in question. 

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