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Buncrana pier tragedy mother and hero complete Belfast marathon

NewsBy Sunday World
Louise James and Davitt Walsh in Belfast today
Louise James and Davitt Walsh in Belfast today

A mother who lost five members of her family when their car plunged off a pier has run a marathon in memory of her son just weeks after the tragedy.

Louise James paid an emotional tribute to more than 100 runners - including a hero who saved her baby daughter from drowning in the accident - who joined her in the race.

Crossing the line at the Belfast Marathon, she said her eight-year-old son Evan would have been proud of them all.

"I want to thank every single person who took part to remember Evan, whether you ran the race or have put your hand in your pocket to donate," she said.

"You did something remarkable in his name and to celebrate his life. I know he would be proud."

Ms James' partner Sean McGrotty, 46, died alongside Evan, her other son Mark, 12, her mother Ruth Daniels, 57, and her sister 14-year-old Jodie Lee Daniels when their SUV sank after sliding off a slipway in Buncrana, Co Donegal, in March.

Ms James, from Derry, had been away for the weekend when the accident happened.

The rescue of her four-month-old daughter Rionaghac-Ann, the sole survivor, is her only reason to go on living, she has said.

Davitt Walsh, who without fear for his own life jumped into the water and saved the baby, was among those who completed the marathon to raise funds for Muscular Dystrophy UK.

Evan suffered from the muscle-wasting condition, Duchenne muscular dystrophy, which leads to increasing disability and cuts lives short.

"Duchenne muscular dystrophy is a heart-breaking condition," said Ms James after the race.

"There are hundreds of young people who live with it today.

"For them, we need to raise awareness of Duchenne. We need to help make sure that children and their families in the future don't face the same fears and challenges that we did.

"It means so much that people who knew Evan and my family, and many who didn't, have come together like this."

Family, friends and neighbours of Ms James ran together as Team Evan.

They wore a specially designed t-shirt featuring Evan and his big brother Mark.

Robert Meadowcroft, chief executive of Muscular Dystrophy UK, offered heartfelt thanks to the team.

"It's impossible to comprehend what Louise, her family and friends must be going through," he said.

"We are in awe of the strength of character they display in resolving to do something so tremendous to celebrate the lives of those lost."