It is easily said after a tragedy that a community has been “plunged into mourning”.
But it genuinely is the case that Sunday’s unspeakable incident in Buncrana, when five members of a family drowned in their car, has united Ireland, north, south, east and west, in horror and empathy and concern.
The deaths have reminded us all of the fragility of life.
One minute a family was enjoying the sunset and fine spring weather on a Sunday outing, and the next they were losing a battle to stay alive, perhaps merely because the vehicle they were in turned on a slipway.
It is almost hard to believe that drownings in a car can simultaneously be gradual and so swift. But Davitt Walsh’s recollection on RTE of how he swam out to help the occupants of the sinking vehicle is a harrowing description of the perils.
The drownings have also been a story of the love and self sacrifice of a father, Sean McGrotty, who seems to have been able to escape but whose priority was saving his baby and not abandoning his stricken relatives. He died with his sons Mark, 12, Evan, 8, his mother-in-law Ruth Daniels, 59, and Ms Daniels’ daughter Jodie Lee Daniels, 14.
Everyone who has heard of this appalling episode will now be thinking of Mr McGrotty’s widow Louise, who was away for the weekend when the tragedy unfolded, and who has lost her husband, two children, mother and sister.
She is reported to have said that her surviving four-month-old daughter Rionaghac-Ann is her reason to live. A glimmer of hope in the story is that the baby will not be orphaned.
Road deaths are usually instant and drownings are not. This was a shocking mixture of the two and a reminder of the perils of the sea and the car.
The slipway where this happened looks innocent in pictures and few people would have seen it as hazardous. Few people will regard quaysides as anything but after this freak accident.
All thoughts now are with the broken, surviving family.