Davitt Walsh was honoured with a courage award at last night’s annual People of the Year awards.
Davitt received the award for his immense act of bravery which saved four month old Rioghnach-Ann McGrotty from the Buncrana Pier tragedy earlier this year.
The tragedy claimed the lives of Sean McGrotty, 49, his young songs Mark, 12, and Evan, 8, his 59-year-old mother-in-law Ruth Daniels and sister-in-law Jodi Lee Daniels, aged 14. Their jeep had skid on algae on the pier, leading to the vehicle entering the water.
Davitt, who was in Buncrana with his girlfriend Stephanie Knox, was asked by local man Francis Crawford if he could swim – leading to the rescue of little Rioghnach-Ann.
Former Donegal GAA manager Jim McGuinness presented Davitt the award last night, saying “for his extreme bravery, courage, and initiative in a moment of crisis, Davitt Walsh is presented with the 2016 Person of the Year Award”.
Davitt said how it had been the first day of spring, and the sun was shining. When his girlfriend pointed out that a car was in the water, he said he “just dived into the water and started swimming.”
“It was only when I started swimming closer, about halfway out to the car, when I stopped and thought ‘what am I going to do to help here?’ because I didn’t think initially what I was going to do… I didn’t know any of them were in the car until I was right in front of them.”
“Sean looked around and then he handed me the baby. The water then started to rush into the car and within seconds it was sucked in, and then he said ‘save my baby’ and the car disappeared.”
“It just was gone then… I struggled to get away from the suction. I just remember making sure I kept Rioghnach about water as high as I could, and talking to her saying ‘we’ll get you back home safe’.”
“I do have to take that bit of silver-lining that I was able to save the baby… it gives Louise a reason to live on.”
He says “day to day it’s still very difficult”.
Jim remembers that he had trained Davitt before, and when the story broke it “hit all of us very, very hard.” Jim felt it was important that he present Davitt with the award, and was honoured to do so.
Jim added that “the most important thing is that there is a person on the planet that wouldn’t be on the planet other than for the person here and I think that’s very special thing.”