Family of Bann car survivor in slipway plea

Gareth Wilson beside the slipway at Shillington's Quay where Evelyn Millar had a lucky escape 16 months ago. INPT12-021

Gareth Wilson beside the slipway at Shillington's Quay where Evelyn Millar had a lucky escape 16 months ago. INPT12-021

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The family of a Tartaraghan pensioner who survived an accident when her car slipped into the water at Shillington’s Quay 16 months ago, has said open slipways in the borough need to be secured “sooner rather than later”.

Avril Benson was speaking in the aftermath of the tragedy in Buncrana in which five members of the same family drowned when their car slid into Lough Swilly.

Her mother Evelyn Millar, then aged 82, was trapped in the driving seat of her car, up to her chin in water, before she managed to escape through a window and cling on to a bollard.

Her screams were heard by three men who worked together to wade in and pull her from the icy Bann river. They were later presented with a Mayor’s bravery award.

At the time, Mrs Millar, a great-grandmother, told the Portadown Times that she would like to see safety measures put in place at the slipway - “even if it’s just a chain. I wouldn’t like anybody else to go through what I did”.

This week, her daughter said their “heartfelt sympathy” goes out to the woman who lost her family in the Buncrana tragedy.

She added, “It brings it all back to us when in a very similar incident we almost lost our mother and realise just how lucky she was to survive.

“We very much feel that these open slipways need to be secured sooner rather than later or we will see more of these accidents happening.”

At the time of her accident, in November 2014, Mrs Millar had returned to her car after a day out with friends. She had parked in Shillington’s car park, close to the swollen river, but when she began to drive off, said she found the car carried away down the slipway into the river.

She said at the time she was thankful that she had the presence of mind to open the window, before the electrics went. “I wouldn’t have been able to get out once the car sank,” she added.

She also described fighting for her life, “I was screaming and roaring my head off. My head was under the water and I said to myself ’how do you swim?’ I thought of what a dog does and started scrabbling with my arms,” she said.