Death by misadventure? It's now all about the money

Death by misadventure? It's now all about the money

by Jackie Anderson
article from Wednesday 28, March, 2018

A TRAGEDY HAPPENED at Buncrana, Co-Donegal in 2016 when Sean McGrotty decided to drive down a harbour pier covered with algae and was unable to stop the car sliding into the waters of Lough Swilly. He drowned – along with his passengers – sons Mark and Evan aged 11 and 8, his mother-in-law and her 14-year-old daughter. 

Mr McGrotty’s four-month-old baby was the only one rescued by the courageous actions of Davitt Walsh a passer-by who dived in and managed to free the baby and save her life. 

I have been to this spot in Buncrana and it defies belief that anyone would think it a good decision to drive a car onto this small, narrow pier. 

McGrotty was found to be three-times over the drink drive limit, which is probably why he thought it a good idea to drive onto the slippy algae. However much has been written about the lack of warning signs, and that Donegal Council had not put in place a barrier to prevent idiots like McGrotty who after knocking back the drink thinks its a great idea to drive down a pier, total responsibility for his actions as the driver and the resulting deaths must rest with him.

I’ve seen photos of this pier and it is only covered in algae at the lower end, so one has to ask what the driver was doing?

To compound this needless tragedy the partner of the heroic rescuer Stephanie Knox, who unlike her boyfriend did not jump into the water but sat in her car with the baby her boyfriend had rescued, is now suing Donegal Council and McGrotty’s estate for the stress she’s suffered and loss of earnings. Her now ex-boyfriend – who actually saved the baby’s life – has claimed nothing, despite still undergoing counselling. He says he thinks the loss of life this family has suffered is tragedy enough. 

No one asked either Walsh or Knox to do anything, it’s just what people do. An instinct to help people when in difficulty to turn it into a money making exercise is truly despicable and from an initial good act it’s now turned into what most people think is an abhorrent way of making money. 

I’ve never understood why money compensates in any way for a loss of life, when you get the cheque from the insurance companies who specialise in this sort of thing, is your grief magically over? What do you spend it on that equates and justifies the money? 

The girlfriend Knox, a cardiac physiologist, a profession she could make many a stress compensation claim for in the future, instructed her lawyers to send McGrotty’s 86-year-old father an envelope of legal documentation claiming from his son’s estate. The bewildered father couldn’t make head nor tail of it and as he’s not an executor of his son’s estate one has to ask why it was sent in the first place? She is also suing Donegal Council; meanwhile her now ex-boyfriend who actually dived in and saved the baby is claiming nothing. 

Like most of us, excluding Ms Knox, he maintains he did what anyone would do and is embarrassed by the financial claim being made by Knox, saying it’s just all about getting money. 

An inquest in November 2017 concluded that McGrotty died by misadventure? Really? The man was drunk, and what about the four passengers in his car, did they die from misadventure too? The focus now seems to be on what Donegal Council could have done to prevent this idiot from getting drunk and making a fateful decision that caused his own and four other passengers their lives. Would a sign saying the pier was slippy have made any difference to the drunk driver? Who knows, but any rational person would have made a conclusion that driving onto a pier that’s covered in slippy algae right down to the water was not a rational decision and the fault lies squarely with the late Mr McGrotty. 

We all get exasperated by the health and safety police with silly signs stating the obvious, but to blame Donegal Council and the family left after this tragedy is clearly abhorrent and if Ms Knox gets any financial compensation at all, its on the back of the deaths of an entire family – and shame on her.

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