Five people - a man, a woman, two boys and a girl - died when a jeep went off Buncrana Pier in County Donegal on Sunday evening at approximately 7.15 P.M.
A three month old baby was reportedly rescued alive from the sinking vehicle by a passerby and is now in stable condition at Letterkenny University Hospital.
The incident has sent shockwaves through the tight-knit seaside town and the wider Irish nation.
A police statement to the press on Sunday evening read: "Gardai (Irish police), Emergency Services and the Coast Guard attended the scene following reports that a car had entered the water at Buncrana Pier."
Gardai added that they were treating the incident as a "tragic accident" and are investigating if "the car may have accidentally slipped into the water.”
"A search of the area was carried out and five bodies were recovered from the water… The five bodies were taken to Letterkenny General Hospital where post mortems are to be arranged.
"A baby girl was rescued from the car with the assistance of a bystander. The baby is currently in a stable condition at Letterkenny General Hospital."
The family of five were reportedly from the Galliagh area of Derry. The bodies of a woman in her 50’s originally from Shantallow in Derry, her teenage daughter, the partner of another daughter and his two children were all recovered from Lough Swilly after the vehicle went into the water.
Buncrana pier tragedy: Victims believed to be from Derryhttps://t.co/FTiEwa64Vu pic.twitter.com/mpZD9VTLG2— The Irish News (@irish_news) March 20, 2016
The mother of the children was reportedly on a “hen weekend” in England when the tragedy occurred.
A major rescue operation involving the Irish Coast Guard helicopter, the Lough Swilly lifeboat crew all worked together to recover the bodies.
Davitt Walsh, the man who rescued the infant from the waters, gave a heartbreaking interview with RTE:
Interview with Davitt Walsh, who saved baby Rionaghac-Ann in yesterday’s tragedy in Buncrana https://t.co/a228dN4yDu— RTÉ News (@rtenews) March 21, 2016
The North’s Deputy First Minister, Martin McGuinness, who has lifelong ties with the Inishowen town, expressed his condolences.
"My thoughts and prayers are with all of those affected by the devastating tragedy,” he wrote. “Our thoughts and appreciation must also be with the emergency services who have had to deal with this tragic situation."
The pier and the shorefront area of the town are 20 minutes by car from Derry and have been popular destinations with visitors from the city for generations.
Locals became aware of the unfolding tragedy when the sound of helicopters, fire engines and ambulances alerted them to events.
Book of condolences to open for Buncrana victims https://t.co/JkhBhadZto pic.twitter.com/OvxMOvI99q— RTÉ News (@rtenews) March 21, 2016
Details of how the car ended up in the water are not yet known, but some reports speculate that the vehicle, an Audi Q7, may have skidded on algae.
Buncrana town councillor Rena Donaghy told the BBC it was "a tragedy of enormous magnitude.”
"I've been standing at the pier with so many others from the town looking out at blue flashing lights on the water in a state of complete shock," said Donaghy.
"People here can't believe what they're hearing, can't believe what they're seeing. It's hard to take in that just a matter of hours ago, Buncrana was buzzing with people who were down from Derry and beyond to enjoy the lovely weather. It was so scenic and happy and now happiness has turned to tragedy."