Saturday 23 September 2017

'Fun-loving angel' James (7) laid to rest amid highly-emotional scenes

Father Paul Butler and mother Edel Casey pictured at the funeral of drowning victim James Casey Butler in Midleton, Co Cork. Photo: Provision
Father Paul Butler and mother Edel Casey pictured at the funeral of drowning victim James Casey Butler in Midleton, Co Cork. Photo: Provision
The funeral of 7 yr old drowning victim James Casey Butler in Midleton, co. Cork. Photo: Provision
James Casey-Butler: drowned in river while out playing
Ralph Riegel

Ralph Riegel

A LITTLE BOY who died after falling into a flooded river was hailed as "a fun-loving angel" whose life revolved around his family, video-games and science fiction.

James Casey-Butler (7) was buried as his devastated mother, Edel, repeatedly wept aloud during her only child's Mass of the Angels.

Ms Casey had to be supported by James' father, Paul Butler, as they escorted the little white coffin into the Church of the Holy Rosary in Midleton, Co Cork.

The heartbroken mother kept rubbing the name plate on the coffin as James was brought to the altar of the church where he was baptised.

Three photos of the little boy were then placed on top of the coffin.

His mother cried aloud as prayers were offered by the 300-strong congregation for James and her own brother, Leon, who died tragically just two years ago.

Monsignor Eamon Goold said the tragedy had touched every heart in the tightknit east Cork community.

"Like all of you who were in this church last Saturday evening and heard that a child in Midleton had slipped into the Owenacurra River and was taken to hospital. I didn't know who it was and then on Sunday morning we got to know who it was. At all the Masses here on Sunday, people prayed so earnestly that all would be well."

"We heard of (James') journey to Crumlin (hospital) and that did alarm us. But it only intensified the prayer that was made on James' behalf to Almighty God. People waited for bulletins throughout the evening and then eventually at about 8.45pm the news that we had all feared most came through that poor James had lost the battle for life," he said.

Monsignor Goold said the entire community was distraught by the tragedy.

"It was utterly devastating of course. If we felt devastated by it...of course we know that for his mam and dad, for them it is unbearable. Nobody following this story, and the whole country is, can understand how his mam and dad feel unless they themselves have lost a child. We just cannot imagine it."

He said that James' grandparents explained what a fun-loving lad James was.

"He loved to play video games and that science fiction was a big thing of his. James was a child of huge imagination."

James was brought the Church of the Holy Rosary in Midleton from his grandparents’ Michael and Eileen Casey’s home at Avoncore Place where he had been lying in repose.

As a special mark of respect, the little boy's coffin was escorted through Midleton's Main Street with mourners walking behind the hearse.

James died on Sunday evening after losing his brave 25 hour battle for life.

He was dragged from the freezing Owenacurra River outside the Tiar Cluain estate where he was playing on Saturday evening.

James had squeezed through a gap in a fence by the river shortly before 7pm to apparently try to retrieve a lost football.

But he lost his footing on the riverbank and fell into the swollen river, being swept 200m downstream before two heroic local men, Damian Garde and Roy Daly, were able to drag him ashore.

Both attended the Mass yesterday.

The water, which is normally just over 30cm (12inches) deep, was raging at almost 1.7m (five feet) in depth at the time.

Edel heard Oisin Shanahan (9), one of James’ friends, shouting on the green in front of the estate and, when she ran out to investigate, spotted her son in the river.

She later accompanied James to Cork University Hospital (CUH) but he was transferred by helicopter to Our Lady’s Children’s Hospital in Crumlin, Dublin.

He was on a life support machine before passing away at 8.30pm on Sunday evening with his family by his bedside.

The mourners were led yesterday by his parents, Edel Casey and Paul Butler, his grandparents, Michael and Eileen Casey and Michael and Liz Butler as well as aunts, uncles and cousins.

Special guards of honour were provided by James’ St Brigid's national school classmates as well as by children from the Tir Cluain housing estate.

The St Brigid's school choir performed at the Mass of the Angels.

Wreaths were displayed from St Brigid's, Tir Cluain, Midleton fire brigade and Ms Hyde's senior infants class.

The hearse was surrounded by three giant wreaths which spelled out 'son', 'friend' and 'cousin'.

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