Heartbreaking scenes as Buncrana tragedy victims funeral mass takes place in Derry
The five tragic victims of the freak accident at Buncrana pier will be laid to rest today following a joint funeral service.
"'Mammy I miss you so much. I am going to give you the biggest, tightest hug you ever got, when I see you again’," were the last words one of the little boys who died in the Buncrana pier tragedy told his grieving mother.
The Holy Family Church, in the Ballymagroarty area of Derry, was packed with mourners today who had come to bid a final farewell to the five victims of Sunday night's tragedy.
Sean McGrotty, 46, died along with his two sons Mark, 12, and Evan, eight when their SUV sank after sliding off a slipway in Co Donegal.
The boy's grandmother Ruth Daniels, 57, and her 15-year-old daughter Jodie Lee Daniels also died in Sunday night's tragic incident.
The only survivor of the accident in Lough Swilly was Mr McGrotty's four-month-old baby girl Rionaghac-Ann.
Today the infant was held for the first time since the accident by her hero, Davitt Walsh, read the full story here.
Her mother Louise has said the baby is her only reason to go on living, having lost her partner, two sons, her mother and sister.
Fr. O Kane began the funeral service with the poignant words: "We are plunged in grief. Even the heavens are crying. Five beautiful people have been taken tragically from our midst."
In his heartbreaking homily this afternoon, the priest remembered when the family attended mass for Evan's First Confession two weeks ago.
"That same little Evan who, when his mother phoned him at five to seven on Sunday evening as they sat on the pier to watch the sunset, said ‘Mammy I miss you so much. I am going to give you the biggest, tightest hug you ever got, when I see you again’."
Father O'Kane told of how he was "stunned" when he received a call from grieving Louise after the "terrible accident".
"There comes a time when you struggle with doubt and darkness, when you stand on the brink of emptiness and despair, of anguish, fear and loneliness, that you are tempted to ask ‘Is there a God? And if there is, where is He now? If you are a God of kindness and compassion, come out of your hiding place and show yourself!," he said.
Fr. O Kane said he himself broke down in tears when he visited the funeral home on Tuesday morning and saw the five coffins.
"Their occupants so peaceful in that sleep we call death, I broke down in tears. I was bereft and deep sighs came from my heart. When finally prompted to pray by the undertaker, the words seemed to echo, so empty and hollow," he said.
"And yet there is one little sliver of light, one ray of hope bravely breaking through the dark clouds and it is this-little Rioghnach Ann has been saved," Fr O Kane said at this afternoon's service.
He told of the "self-sacrifice of Sean on Sunday evening as he desperately tried to save his family" and paid tribute to the bravery of Davitt Walsh who saved the life of Rioghnach Ann. "Davitt, today we salute you as our hero."
It is understood the vehicle lost grip on a thick blanket of algae coating the pier's slipway and slid into the water.
The only survivor of Sunday night's accident in Lough Swilly was Mr McGrotty's four-month-old baby girl Rionaghac-Ann who was rescued by hero Davitt Walsh.
Mr McGrotty handed him his baby out of the broken driver's side window just moments before the vehicle sank.
Her heartbroken mother Louise has said the baby is her only reason to go on living, having lost her partner, two sons, her mother and sister.