Support offered to families after honeymoon tragedy
SUPPORT has been offered to the grieving families of a newly-wed Co Down couple who drowned in South Africa on their honeymoon.
John Rodgers (28) and his bride Lynette (26) died while swimming at Plettenberg Bay on Friday, just six days after they walked down the aisle.
Their families spoke of their shock at news of the double tragedy.
"Our happiness in sharing their recent wedding has been thoroughly devastated. Both were very dearly loved and brought us great joy."
Lynette was a physiotherapist from Holywood, Co Down, while John, from Ballygowan, worked for a Belfast office equipment firm.
First and Deputy First Ministers Peter Robinson and Martin McGuinness both expressed their sympathies to the families following the tragedy, which has echoes of the death of Michaela McAreavey while on honeymoon in Mauritius off the African coast in 2011.
Prayers were also said on Sunday morning at the First Presbyterian Church in Holywood where the couple recently exchanged vows.
Assistant minister Stephen Lowry said the close-knit congregation had been plunged into "intensive grief".
Addressing almost 200 parishioners, many of whom had known the 26-year-old bride since she was a child, he also pledged pastoral and practical support for relatives.
"We as a church continue to offer our support in any way that we can, with our love and our prayers."
The founder of a Co Down-based charity that helps bring home the bodies of people who have died overseas has offered his support to the families.
Colin Bell, who set up the Kevin Bell Repatriation Trust in memory of his 26-year-old son who died in in New York in 2013, said he spoke to Lynette's mother Eva by phone.
"It was early on Saturday morning, I don't know how much sleep she was able to have, but she is totally devastated," he said.
He said waiting for a body to be returned after a tragedy abroad is "the worst time".