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Mourners say final farewell to teenage crash victims

Emotional scenes as Eoin Farrell's family and friends make their way to St Mary's Star of the Sea Church in Rostrevor. Picture Bill Smyth

WITH tractors leading the corteges and mourners wearing checked shirts and flat caps, the lives of two teenagers killed in a road tragedy were celebrated yesterday at their funerals in Co Down.

Family and friends of Eoin Farrell and James Miskelly were asked not to wear black, but instead to don clothing that reflected the two young men.

Hundreds of people gathered at the separate funerals in Rostrevor and Mayobridge, where there was laughter as well as tears as the two 17-year-olds were fondly remembered.

The friends were killed after their car careered off the Kilbroney Road near Rostrevor on Monday and hit a wall, ending up in a field.

Another 17-year-old, Che Kane, was also seriously injured but was last night said to be in a stable condition in hospital.

The trio had attended St Mark's High School in Warrenpoint together and were studying heavy vehicle maintenance at the Southern Regional College in Newry.

Eoin's funeral was held first at St Mary's Star of the Sea Church in Rostrevor.

Hundreds of people lined the village streets as a cab of a lorry led the cortege, bearing dozens of floral tributes.

Following close behind was a tractor, in tribute to Eoin's love of farming.

The hearse was followed by his parents and three sisters who wore checked shirts and flat caps in memory of him.

Pupils from his former primary school, St Bronagh's, stood alongside teachers outside the school and students from several other schools, including St Mark's, formed a guard of honour outside the church.

As the funeral arrived, the silence in the village was broken by the sounding of the lorry's horn for more than a minute.

Fr Colum Wright described how Eoin's family had "so many hopes and dreams" for him.

"He was going to excel as a mechanic, he was going to continue in farming, he was going to carry on hunting on a Saturday morning," he said.

"He was going to bring nothing but joy and happiness that he had done in the past 17 years, that he crammed so many things into his short, short life."

The priest spoke about "how Eoin's short life has affected the entire community over the past few days".

"So many stories have been shared about Eoin and Leon and Gerard (his parents) have discovered so many things about their son that they were completely unaware of, like whenever Eoin was working in the bar, at the end of the night he would take him a man across the road home and make sure he was okay.

"People from everywhere have come together and sat down, all united in telling you how sorry for what you are going through.

"Together the entire parish community have worked to help you be able to take one small step. They are all around you, all ready to catch you if you would fall."

Similar scenes were witnessed at James' funeral at St Patrick's Church in Mayobridge a few hours later where mourners also wore checked shirts, flat caps and brown shoes.

A New Holland tractor - James' favourite - led the cortege, flanked by members of the Mayobridge GAA club.

Among the gifts brought to the altar to signify James' life was a handprint from pre-school as well as his class photo from St Mark's High.

His year as an apprentice mechanic was also represented as well as his love of New Holland tractors with a model of one of vehicles. A Bob Marley poster with the quote 'Wake up and live' was also taken from his room.

Canon John Kearney told mourners that James "had a short life but he lived it to the full".

He said the deaths of the two teenagers had "shocked and saddened the whole community of south Down, Mayobridge and Rostrevor".

"Our hearts go out today to James' family and friends who shared the adventure of his young manhood," he said.

"James was just 17, in November he would have celebrated his 18th birthday and maybe to wind up his mother he told her that he was going to have a big party in Grants.

"And now that is not possible as the grey angel of death gatecrashed his celebration of life."

Canon Kearney described how James "loved the land and tractors in particular" as well as working with cars.

"He spent the last year as an apprentice mechanic in Warrenpoint and he seemed to have found his niche in life and it is hard to take in that we come together today to journey with him as we lay him in an early grave," he said.

With many of James' friends tearful, Canon Kearney also drew smiles as he described the teenager as a young man with "irrepressible energy, with promise" and "someone who never lost his capacity to surprise us".

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