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Friends went to memorial Mass hours before fatal car crash

The school friends from Kilrea died when Mr O'Neill's BMW M3 crashed and burst into flames a quarter of a mile from the village 
Andrea McKernon

THE families of lifelong friends killed when their car hit a tree in Co Derry have told how they attended an anniversary Mass together just hours before the horror crash.

Paying moving tributes to 23-year-old plumber Declan McKenna and mechanic Christopher O'Neill (22), their grieving relatives said they would have "done anything for anyone".

The school friends from Kilrea died when Mr O'Neill's BMW M3 crashed and burst into flames a quarter of a mile from the village in the early hours of Saturday.

They had earlier attended an anniversary Mass for Christopher's father Kevin who died of cancer 12 months ago.

Mr O'Neill's family said he had spent the past year looking after his mother and older sister and had become "the man of the house".

Mr McKenna's father Martin described him as "a special son who was the light of our lives".

Kilrea has been plunged into mourning following the deaths, with floral tributes being laid at the scene yesterday by stunned neighbours and friends.

Both families are well known and respected in the area - Mr McKenna's uncle Noel was a former SDLP mayor of Derry, while Mr O'Neill's grandfather John Joe Davey was a Sinn Fein councillor, murdered by the UVF in 1989.

Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness said he was "deeply shocked" at the deaths.

SDLP assembly member John Dallat said people were praying that "somehow the McKenna and O'Neill families will be able to see this through over the next few days and beyond".

n 'SPECIAL SON': Declan McKenna n 'MAN OF HOUSE': Christopher O'Neill

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