A 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.
Devastated mother Edel Casey wept during Mass of the Angels for her only child James Casey-Butler (7).
Ms Casey had to be supported by James's 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 nameplate 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 tight-knit east Cork community.
"It is utterly devastating, of course. We know that for his mam and dad 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 James's grand-parents had explained what a fun-loving lad he was.
"He loved to play video games, and science fiction was a big thing of his. James was a child of huge imagination."
James was brought to the church from his grandparents' 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 try to retrieve a football. But he lost his footing on the riverbank and fell into the swollen river. He was swept 200 metres downstream before two heroic local men, Damian Garde and Roy Daly, were able to drag him ashore.
Both attended the Mass yesterday.
His mother heard Oisin Shanahan (9), one of James's friends, shouting on the green in front of the estate and when she ran out to investigate she spotted her son in the river.
James was initially rushed to Cork University Hospital (CUH) but he was transferred 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 by his parents, his grandparents, Michael and Eileen Casey and Michael and Liz Butler as well as aunts, uncles and cousins.