The inquest into the deaths of five members of a Londonderry family who died in the Buncrana pier tragedy last year is set to be held in November.
Sean McGrotty, his two sons Mark and Evan McGrotty, his partner’s mother Ruth Daniels and her daughter Jodie-Lee Daniels tragically lost their lives as their car slid off the slipway at Buncrana Pier and into Lough Swilly on the evening of March 20, 2016.
The inquest into the deaths was opened and adjourned today at a pre-evidential hearing in the Inishowen Gateway Hotel, Buncrana.
Dr. Denis McCauley, Coroner for the District of Donegal, scheduled the pre-evidential hearing as a way to “prevent adjournments at a later date.”
“Today is very factual, there will be no evidence given,” he said.
Members of the McGrotty family were present at today’s hearing, as were members of the Gardai and legal representatives for Donegal County Council and the motor insurance company.
“This was a terrible tragedy, and having looked at a lot of the evidence that is available, I propose we would first look at the events of the night and what actually happened at that time,” said Dr. McCauley.
He said he would also explore information available on piers and slipways in Donegal, and also ask for a coroner’s witness to give advice to the public on what to do if their car goes into the water.
Dr. McCauley said there were a total of 69 draft depositions from people who were witnesses on the night. However, these depositions have been reduced to 12 to allow the jury to digest them.
He asked that Donegal County Council provide all internal and external reports on piers and slipways in the county, and also if there was a risk assessment of Buncrana Pier carried out before the tragedy, and if this has changed since.
Dr. McCauley said he will call on two coroner’s witnesses: a representative from the Irish Water Safety Authority in relation to water safety issues, and a representative from the Road Safety authority to give advice in relation to cars and water.
He added that he had contacted Audi Ireland but he has yet to receive a response.
Mr. Staines, solicitor for Donegal County Council, said: “We will co-operate completely and thoroughly with the inquest.”
Dr McCauley said: “An inquest is very useful thing, it gives facts. It can seem impersonal, but there is a reason for it.
“If it is planned well, all the issues we hope to explore will be fully explored,” he added.
Dr. McCauley adjourned the inquest until September 27 for mention, to then be formally opened on November 22. He said he expects the inquest to take no more than two days.