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Mourners gather at funerals of two pals killed in A1 crash

THE father of one of three students killed in a devastating road crash in Co Down yesterday described how his son would "always be our shining light".

In an emotional tribute, Paul Hughes told mourners at his son Peter's funeral that he was "our special boy".

Hundreds of people listened in silence as Mr Hughes described how "there wasn't a moment passed when we weren't proud to call you son".

The 19-year-old from Dromintee in south Armagh and his two friends Conall Havern and Gavin Sloan were killed in a two-car collision on the A1 dual carriageway between Dromore and Banbridge on Sunday.

All three, who were students at Queen's University, had been returning home from Belfast after finalising their accommodation for the forthcoming academic year.

The rural parish of Dromintee came to a standstill yesterday as family and friends of the talented Gaelic footballer gathered at St Patrick's Church for Requiem Mass.

Team mates from his beloved Dromintee GAC formed a guard of honour at one side of the church, while players from Queens GAA club lined the entrance on the other side.

Pupils from St Paul's High School, Bessbrook, where the teenager had been head boy, also lined the road to the chapel.

Dozens of members of his home club also accompanied the funeral cortege from his home on the Carrickbroad Road as it made its way to the church, where a loud speaker relayed the service to large crowds unable to get into the packed church.

With his voice shaking, Mr Hughes spoke movingly about his son, whom he said was "adored" by the whole family.

"Peter, Peter, why did you have to go?" he asked.

"Me and your mum, we really loved you so. Kevin, Jenna and Ryan - you were their shining light, you were their big brother as you still are this night.

"Your aunties and your uncles, they were so proud of you, your cousins loved you dearly and in you a friend they found.

"Your two grannies and your grandad, they thought the world of you, your countless friends and team-mates were not afraid to shed a tear - you were their inspiration throughout your brief and fun-filled years.

"Every parent so rightly thinks their child is a special child, Peter you were our special boy, we always saw you smile."

Mr Hughes added: "We will miss you dearly Peter, you were our special one, there wasn't a moment passed when we weren't proud to call you son.

"Now the time has come to say goodbye and you have to move along, Peter you will always be our shining light and we must all remain so strong.

"Peter, oh Peter, we really love you so we pray that Peter may be our guiding light in heaven."

Parish priest Fr Dermot Maloney told mourners it was a "very sad day for the parish and the community".

He described how the teenager had "from an early age... showed leadership ability" at both primary and secondary school.

"He was a role model to younger pupils," he said.

"In St Paul's, Peter was head boy where he took his responsibilities very seriously. He loved St Paul's and the St Paul's community loved him."

Fr Maloney described how Mr Hughes "was a young lad who was easy to converse with" and that he "loved Gaelic football".

He also said Mr Hughes had been looking forward to returning to QUB next month.

"He had many friends, he always included others who were on the outside, that was typical of Peter, he would draw others into the company," he said.

Fr Moloney added: "Peter Hughes was a rock to so many, his family and his friends. While we are in mourning today at the loss of Peter, we are consoled by the fact that during his short life he showed much love."

The funeral was also held yesterday of Gavin Sloan from Attical, near Kilkeel.

Large crowds of mourners gathered at St Colman's Church, Massforth where they accompanied Mr Sloan's parents Liam and Eilish and brother Paul as they paid their last respects.

The 20-year-old student was studying law at QUB and had been described as a "quiet lad".

His former school, St Louis' Grammar School in Kilkeel, said he was “an exemplary student, conscientious and hard-working”.

The funeral of Mr Havern (20) from Crieve Road, Newry is due to take place today.

Funeral mass will be celebrated at St Mary's Church in the city at noon followed by interment in Monkshill Cemetery.

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