The funeral procession at St Mary's Church, Ardmore in Derry PA/Joe Boland

'A parent's worst nightmare': Funeral held for Derry teenagers who drowned in Lough Enagh

Bishop of Derry Donal McKeown said that the two boys ‘were a huge gift to all of us in their life’.

LAST UPDATE | Sep 2nd 2022, 4:15 PM

TWO TEENAGE BOYS who died in a Co Derry lough were “a huge gift” and the tragedy has been a nightmare for their families and traumatic for the local community, hundreds of mourners were told at their funeral this morning.

Reuven Simon and Joseph Sebastian, both 16, had got into trouble while swimming at 6.25pm on Tuesday and had been in a larger group who stopped off at Lough Enagh while cycling in the area.

The congregation at their joint funeral service heard their deaths were “nothing short of unbearable”, as the boys’ best friends described them as fun, compassionate and inseparable from one another.

The service was conducted according to the rites of the Syro-Malabar Church, a form of Eastern Catholicism based in India.

Abraham Sebastian, a representative of Joseph’s family, described him as “a role model” to his younger siblings and someone “who always took things in his stride”.

He said his death was “devastating” and had left “a huge emptiness” in their hearts.

“Words cannot describe the sorrow and loss that we are feeling as a family as we mourn the life that was, but also the life that might have been,” he said.

Funeral2 The congregation at their joint funeral service heard the deaths were ‘nothing short of unbearable’

Reuven’s brother Evan gave a speech where he addressed his only brother, telling him “you left me too soon”.

Bishop Donal McKeown, Bishop of Derry, addressed the mourners in St Mary’s Church this morning:

“This is a parent’s worst nightmare.  And it is very unsettling for the teenage friends and colleagues of these two young men who lie before us in their new school uniforms. It is difficult to accept that life can be very hard.”

“We are blessed by one another and by a sense of faith when we have to deal with the many tragic losses in life. These two boys were a huge gift to all of us in their life,” he continued.

“Today we hand them back, so reluctantly, to the strong hands of the God who made them in love. We pray that they can be at peace with God and that we can eventually find some peace at their leaving us.”

The bicycles the boys had been riding remained beside the lough on Tuesday which was cordoned off by police, while some locals visited the small jetty to leave flowers in tribute.

Both boys were part of the Indian Kerala community in Derry, which was described by Bishop McKeown as “very strong and close knit”.

Father Michael Canny delivered a homily to both boys.

“Joseph, lovingly called ‘Joppu’ by his family and friends was born on 11 May 2006 in Kerala and he was baptised at two months and, at the tender age of three months, he was brought to Ireland where his parents began a new life in this city,” he said.

“He attended Good Shepherd Primary School and Saint Columb’s College and should be starting his AS level studies today.  He was a passionate footballer and a great fan of Barcelona.  He also loved cricket and was an active member of Newbuildings Cricket Club.”

“Ruevan was born in Altnagelvin hospital and like Joseph he attended Good Shepherd Primary School and Saint Columb’s College where today he should also be starting his AS level studies.  He too enjoyed football, cricket and listening to music as well as films and I am told eating medium-rare steaks.”

“Joseph and Rueven’s families, you have made this city your home, a city and a people that are no strangers to pain and deep suffering.  You as families who are suffering so sorely can now draw from that deep well of empathy and love that your adoptive city is so ready and willing to offer.”

tribute Flowers left at Lough Enagh shortly after the tragic accidents. PA PA

Hundreds of people attended a vigil outside St Oliver Plunkett Church in Strathfoyle yesterday evening and held candles in memory of Reuven and  Joseph.

SDLP MLA Mark Durkan said the community had been hit by an “unspeakable tragedy”.

He said: “Two beautiful, brilliant boys, along with their four friends, went out for an adventure.

“Many of us will have done that in our own youth.

“This is a cruel reminder of the preciousness and fragility of life.”

Taoiseach Micheál Martin expressed his deepest sympathies to the families of the two boys on Wednesday.

“Our hearts go out to their families. We can all imagine young people going out to enjoy a beautiful summer’s afternoon. And for it to end in such tragedy, people availing of and using a water amenity, which we’ve all done in our different times,” he told reporters in Monaghan.

Both boys were students at St Columb’s College in Derry.

St Columb’s principal Finbar Madden described “shock and sadness” within the school at the “heart-breaking loss of two of our incoming Year 13 pupils”.

“No words can express the devastation that we feel as a school community, but first and foremost our thoughts and prayers are with both boys’ families, community and friends,” he said in a statement.

“This will be a very difficult time for the whole St Columb’s family and in the coming days it will be important that our pupils are with people they know and trust.”

He said they will be providing support for the students.

The boys had been involved with Newbuildings Cricket Club.

In a statement, the club described them as “two of the most well mannered and lovely people”.

“It was an absolute pleasure to have in our U15s last season,” they said.

“Our thoughts and prayers go out to their families & friends, survivors and the wider Kerala community.”

With additional reporting from PA

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