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Air crash victim was tycoon's right-hand man, mourners told

Brendan Hughes

A JOINER from Co Down who died alongside Eddie Haughey in a helicopter crash was fondly described during his funeral yesterday as the business tycoon's "right-hand man".

Declan Small was among four people killed when the aircraft crashed in a field shortly after taking off from Mr Haughey's estate in England on March 13.

The 42-year-old from Mayo-bridge worked as a site foreman for the successful pharmaceutical firm Norbrook owned by Mr Haughey (70), a life peer known as Lord Ballyedmond.

Hundreds of mourners including Mr Small's mother Margaret, his brothers Micheal, Shane and Anrai, and girlfriend Bernie McDonnell gathered at the Church of Saint Patrick in Mayobridge for 1pm Requiem Mass.

Parish priest Fr Charlie Byrne told how Mr Small had been building a new house for himself beside the family home and was looking forward to it being finished.

He also said the joiner, who often worked away from home, regularly kept in touch with his mother while overseas and had twice phoned her in the hours before his death.

"Declan was a very skilled craftsman and always took great pride and joy in his work," he said.

"He was highly respected and very well thought of by all who worked with him and often was fondly referred to as Lord Ballyedmond's right-hand man."

Mr Small played football for Mayobridge GAA until the age of 16 and continued to be an active supporter of the club.

He was also an active member of Mayobridge Golf Club and a local darts team.

Mementos of Mr Small's life including sporting items were brought towards the altar by relatives and friends, while his girl-friend presented a single yellow rose.

Fr Byrne said Mr Small was a "great support" to his mother when his late father Joe was in failing health due to suffering from multiple sclerosis.

He said Mr Small was well-known for his "love of family, love of life and steadfast faith".

"He was much loved by his many friends and was renowned for his quick wit, always game for a laugh," he said.

"Declan's life has been cut short. He has died too suddenly, too soon, but it is a tragedy that has allowed us to see the remarkable impact which Declan has made.

"This was evident in the number of people young and old who lined the road in a candle-lit guard of honour for his homecoming on Friday night."

Mr Small's remains were interred in the adjoining cemetery.

* GRIEF: Mourners follow the coffin of Declan Small, above, to Saint Patrick's Church , Mayobridge, yesterday MAIN PICTURE:

Ann McManus

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