Pier tragedy rescuer had 'no intent to sue family'

Buncrana pier onlookers Image copyright Pacemaker
Image caption The incident at Buncrana pier was one of the worst family tragedies along the Irish coastline

A woman who helped rescue a four-month-old girl in the Buncrana pier tragedy has said she never intended to sue the estate of one of the deceased.

Stephanie Knox said she believed her damages claim was being pursued solely against Donegal County Council, owners of the pier.

She said she has received a number of abusive messages since reports of her claim were made public.

The tragedy claimed the lives of five members of the same Londonderry family.

Sean McGrotty, his sons Mark and Evan, his partner's mother, Ruth Daniels and her daughter, Jodie Lee all lost their lives in March 2016.

Ms Knox said her intention was never to add to the family's hurt.

Sole survivor

"I'm under so much stress and heartache and I would love it to just blow over," she told Independent.ie.

"I knew there was a claim being made against the council and the insurance company...I know what they're [the family] going through is hard."

The tragedy's sole survivor, four-month-old daughter Rionaghac-Ann was rescued by passer-by Davitt Walsh, the then partner of Ms Knox.

Image copyright Other
Image caption The victims were, from left, Mark McGrotty, 12, and Evan McGrotty, 8, Sean McGrotty, 49, Ruth Daniels, 57, and Jodie Lee Daniels, 14

Mr Walsh swam to the family and returned to the pier with the infant, whom he handed to Ms Knox, a cardiac physiologist.

She tended to the baby until emergency services arrived.

A solicitor acting on her behalf confirmed his client was pursuing a compensation claim.

Maoliosa Barr, of Barr and Company Solicitors in Derry, told The Irish News that Ms Knox is "making a claim, on the advice of her legal team, against Donegal county council and the estate for injuries sustained".

Mr Barr further said his client did not send a letter claiming compensation to Mr McGrotty's elderly father.

Noel McGrotty, 86, told the Derry News he had received a legal letter from Ms Knox, claiming an undisclosed amount from the estate of his late son for loss of earnings and other matters.

"It was a private delivery and I had to sign for it; it was a big envelope full of legal documents - hard for the ordinary man in the street to understand," he said.

Others lodged claims

"Then I saw the name Knox and realised it was from the girl that took the baby when she was brought out of the water that day."

But Laura Knox said her sister had been informed by GardaĆ­ (Irish police) that people who had been present on the pier on the day of the tragedy were lodging claims, so she had gone to her solicitor for advice.

In a Facebook post she said: "Stephanie is not the type of person that people are making her out to be all over Facebook and anyone who actually knows her would know this.

"Stephanie would never be as spiteful to claim off an 86 year old man. She was under the impression that the claim was against the Donegal council and due to the same reason that the family were claiming for - algae being on the slipway and other reasons."

"That day has ruined her life forever witnessing five people die in front of her and her life will never be the same," she added.

In November 2017, an inquest found the five family members drowned by misadventure.

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