Irish News

Wednesday 23 July 2014

'It'll stick in my mind forever': father of Jonny Byrne recalls when his son died from ‘NekNomination’ craze

Brave father of Carlow teenager Jonny Byrne tell Ryan Tubridy of their plight.

Published 07/02/2014|10:37

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Joe Byrne, father of Jonny Byrne, who died earlier this week after an neknomination dare went wrong, calls for an end to the drinking games. Photo: RTE

The father of tragic teenager Jonny Byrne has spoken of the moment of heartbreak when he learned that his son had died after a neknomination.

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Jo Byrne, who showed incredible strength on RTE's Late Late show tonight - just one week after his son died - told Ryan Tubridy that the moment will be forever etched in his memory.

Mr Byrne appealed to young people and their parents to say "no" to neknominations.

He described the moment he got the message last Saturday evening that Jonny had jumped into the Barrow.

"I got a message saying Jonny is in the Barrow. Come Quick. I said 'where?' And they said 'at Milford'."

Jo and his wife Kathleen raced to the scene where they found their other son Patrick wrapped in a towel.

He said the five-minute drive to the scene “seemed like ages” and when they got there they found Patrick (26), their other son, with a blanket around him.

“Reality struck - there was something seriously wrong,” he recalled.

Joe said Jonny had drunk a cocktail of three kinds of spirits and was filmed on a mobile phone.

“Then within an instant, he took his track suit off and jumped in,” he said.

Tragically Patrick, 26, had jumped in to try and save Jonny, but the river's current pulled Jonny away.

“Jonathan slipped away,” the father said.

Joe told how the family could not sleep that night and next morning they were preparing to go back to the river bank when they got a call that Jonny’s body had been found.

He described the harrowing scene of having to view his son’s body in a tent on the river bank.

“It wasn’t a pleasant sight. It will stick in my mind forever.  It probably would have been worse if I had seen the sub aqua team lift him out of the water.”

Jonny, a Carlow IT student from Tomard in Leighlinbridge, Co Carlow, had taken part in the neknomination challenge which involves downing alcohol after receiving an online challenge.

Jo told Ryan Tubridy: "It is a struggle and it's going to be a struggle...things might come crashing down around us. There will be no more things to do for Jonathan or with Jonathan. He's gone from us now and we're going to miss him terribly."

"When we got there it was in a tent. It wasn't a pleasant sight... It'll stick in my mind forever."

"We'll never forget him. He'll always be part of our lives."

Jo said of Patrick: "When you see someone die in front of your eyes, it's something that you'll have to live with."

He described his late son as "quick-witted" and "quick off the mark" and last Saturday the family had been experiencing "a normal day, the same as every other day."

Patrick told the Late Late Show how he went straight onto Facebook "to try and stop people going through the same hardship"

Tonight, Jo pleaded with the public: "I'm asking their parents to talk to them and find out if they're involved in this necknomination...They have to stand up and say 'no'."

“Life is hard enough for youngsters. They’s under so much pressure in life in general.  They don’t need this kind of thing in their lives.

Geraldine Gittens and Clodagh Sheehy

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