Father tells how skier son 'lived life on the edge'
THE father of a young Irish financier killed in a Swiss avalanche paid an emotional tribute to his son as he said their family are heartbroken by the nightmare accident.
Michael Clifford (32) was described as living his life "not close to the edge, but on the edge".
The Limerick native died when he was caught in an avalanche while skiing in Switzerland on St Stephen's Day.
He was taking part in a cross-country skiing event when the avalanche struck in the Rotunda area in the Alps Uri region.
Michael, a cousin of Limerick TD Niall Collins, died after being struck by a slab of ice while skiing alone.
His father David told his son's Requiem Mass at the Church of the Descent of the Holy Spirit in Dennehy's Cross, Cork that Michael was "a beautiful, strong and independent" man who brought joy to so many lives and loved the outdoors lifestyle.
"It is not right that I should be here today. There is an ochón in our hearts that will be there for the rest of our lives.
"Without all your prayers, love and support I don't know how we could get through this nightmare," he said.
Mr Clifford said Michael was as much a friend to him as a son.
"He was a man who was a great colleague and a better friend. He packed a lot into his 32 years," he said.
"Michael lived life not close to the edge but on the edge. That is where the adrenaline flowed.
"He made Switzerland his home, mastering the language and becoming more Swiss than even the Swiss themselves.
"Every weekend there were mountains to be climbed and slopes to be skied," he added.
The Clifford family paid particular tribute to Michael's girlfriend, Sara, who they said had been a tower of strength over the difficult days since the tragedy.
It was Sara who had raised the alarm when she became concerned at Michael's failure to return to their hotel on St Stephen's Day from his skiing expedition.
Celebrant Fr Tom Clancy said the family "talked, cried and laughed" as he recalled the exchange of photos and memories in relation to Michael's life.
Michael was from Ballagran, Co Limerick but his family moved to Wilton, Cork after his dad retired as a school teacher.
A graduate of UCC, the young man had worked in Ireland, the US and Switzerland where he had built up a successful financial services career.