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Gairloch canoe children’s father in safety drive

The canoe capsized in waters at Gairloch. Picture: PA

The canoe capsized in waters at Gairloch. Picture: PA

  • by CATH ASCROFT
 

A HEARTBROKEN father who survived a canoeing tragedy in which three children and a man died is trying to raise awareness about water safety.

Monday will mark the first anniversary of the fun day out at Gairloch which turned to horror for two families.

Ewen Beaton, 5, and his little brother Jamie, 2, of Resaurie near Beauly died with their father, Ewen, when their canoe capsized.

Their five-year-old friend, Gracie Mackay of Muir or Ord, died later in the Royal Hospital for Sick Children in Glasgow.

As the investigation continues a year on, Grace’s father Garry Mackay 37 said it was difficult to live with the guilt every day that he survived and she did not.

After the canoe capsized, he swam to shore for help believing the children were wearing life jackets, but they only had buoyancy aids on. His eight-year-old daughter Callie also managed to swim to safety but Grace had to be rescued and died the next day.

Mr Mackay, who is now in talks with the RNLI and the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents to help raise awareness of water safety, said: “We didn’t realise the danger we were getting ourselves into before it happened. This is about raising awareness so people have the right knowledge.”

The van driver said he was trying to remain emotionally strong for Callie and his partner, Wendy Macdonald.

“We want to thank our family and friends for their help and support over the past year,” he said.

“It has been a very difficult year and this is a very hard time, coming up to the anniversary.

“We have been strong for each other and Callie has been an inspiration.

“We have been so proud of her - the way she has been dealing with everything which has happened. She is a very brave and resilient wee girl.”

The couple wanted to thank everyone for the thousands of pounds donated for MFR’s Cash For Kids appeal.

“It was very generous and much appreciated,” Ms Macdonald said.

“There has been a garden made at Tarradale Primary School for our beautiful Grace with a poem done by a pupil to go on a plaque around the Thinking Tree.”

The couple also found comfort in these lines by an unknown author: “An angel in the book of life wrote down my daughter’s birth and whispered as she closed the book, ‘Too beautiful for earth’.”

Mr Mackay added the local community had been “fantastic”.

“We have received cards from people we don’t even know,” he said. “It is very touching and really appreciated. It has hit home that in the Highlands of Scotland we have such a strong community about us. There are very thoughtful people.”

A statement from the Crown Office said: “The procurator fiscal has received a report in connection with the deaths of three children and an adult on Loch Gairloch.

“The investigation into the deaths, under the direction of the Scottish Fatalities Investigation Unit, is ongoing and the family will continue to be kept updated in relation to any significant developments.”

 

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