INVESTIGATIONS are continuing this morning into the tragic incident in Buncrana last evening which saw five people lose their lives.
The five, three adults and three children – two small boys and a girl – all believed to be from Derry, lost their lives when the vehicle they were in – a Northern Ireland registered Audi Q7 – entered the water at the slipway in Buncrana at approximately 7.15pm.
A sixth occupant of the car, believed to be a two-month old baby girl, survived and has been taken to hospital where her condition is described as ‘stable’ this morning.
It is understood that a person at the scene had the infant passed out of the car to him by one of the occupants and was rescued from the water before the vehicle submerged.
A spokesman for the Garda Press Office said that Gardaí, Emercency Services and the Coast Guard attended the scene following reports that a car had entered the water at Buncrana Pier.
“A search of the area was carried out and five bodies were recovered from the water, three males, one adult/two children and two females, one adult and the age of the second to be established. The five bodies were taken to Letterkenny General Hospital where post mortems are to be arranged.
“A baby girl was rescued from the car, with the assistance of a bystander. The baby is currently in a stable condition at Letterkenny General Hospital.
“At this point it is not proposed to make a Garda spokesperson available. The matter will be reviewed following a case conference this morning,” the statement read.
Gardaí are appealing for witnessess and anyone with information is asked to contact Buncrana Garda Station on 074 9320540, The Garda Confidential Line, 1800 666111 or any Garda Station.
At present Gardaí are treating this matter as a tragic accident and does not appear to be a ‘self harm; incident. The car may have accidentally slipped into the water.
A local man raised the alarm after he saw the vehicle drive off the slipway and into Lough Swilly on the north side of Buncrana pier. The slipway is used for the Buncrana to Rathmullan ferry service which operates throughout the summer months.
A major rescue operation, co-ordinated by the Malin Head Coastguard Station, saw two Lough Swilly RNLI lifeboats and a number of local divers take to the waters while the fire service, ambulance service and Gardai were on shore. They were joined by an Irish Air Corps Sikorsky helicopter which led the aerial search before 8pm.
The helicopter, which had been taking part in a training exercise in Lough Swilly all afternoon, had only returned to its Sligo base shortly before the alarm was raised.
Former Sinn Fein Deputy Padraig MacLochlainn said that the people of Buncrana were still trying to come to terms with the tragedy.
“It’s a terrible tragedy. There’s a lot of local people gathered around the pier. There’s a sense of shock and disbelief and our hearts go out to the family involved. It’s an unthinkable tragedy,” Mr MacLochlainn said.
“It’s a freak accident. My understanding is that the vehicle went down the slipway and into the water,” Mr MacLochlainn said.
As a community, Inishowen and Buncrana have suffered more than their fair share of tragedies.
Over an 18 months period between 2004 and 2005 25 young people under the age of 25 lost their lives on the roads of Inishowen.
Six years ago, 8 people died in the one accident in Inishowen.
Shortly before midnight, the five bodies were removed form the scene in a fleet of hearses and taken to Letterkenny University Hospital where post mortems are expected to take place this morning
Investigations are continuing.