Sad farewell to heroes who used their final minutes to save friend
TWO inseparable best friends who lived life to the full were laid to rest amid poignant scenes in their home towns at the weekend.
Philip Kelly (31) and Connie Smith (34) perished in a kayaking accident at a flooded weir in Co Waterford last week. They have been hailed as heroes after shouting warnings to a third friend, Derek Elliot (26), ensuring he survived.
Hundreds of mourners gathered in counties Tipperary and Cavan over the weekend to remember the two men who were friends and housemates.
Our Lady of Fatima Church in Cappawhite, Co Tipperary, was overflowing yesterday as the town came to a stop to say a final farewell to Philip.
Among the items brought to the altar were a selection of books, reflecting Philip's love of reading.
Parish priest Fr Pat Coffey told mourners: "I couldn't help but notice the first book had the title 'Great Irish Heroes'. It's a title not inappropriate for Philip given what he did for his friend this week."
He told how Philip's family had found solace in the fact that he risked his life to save one friend and died trying to save another.
"Philip Kelly took advantage of the time that was given to him to live life well and to the fullest insofar as anyone can," said Fr Coffey.
He described the young man as well travelled and an outdoors enthusiast who loved nature.
"We gather this Sunday still in shock, still in disbelief and still in deep, deep sorrow.
"Yet deep down we realise that if we wrapped our young people in cotton wool and never let them outside the door, they would live very boring lives and the world of creation would have remained unexplored and unappreciated.
"Philip Kelly's life was far from boring," he added.
Reflecting this adventurous spirit, Philip's brother John brought a pair of runners to the altar representing his athleticism and his many expeditions abroad including to Nepal and his scaling of the highest mountains in Spain and north Africa.
He is also survived by his parents, John and Patricia, his brothers Pat, George and Frank, his sisters Georgina, Rachel, Mary and Lorraine, his girlfriend Linn and many friends and work colleagues.
Fr Coffey asked the congregation to remember Philip's good friend Connie in their prayers. He was laid to rest a day earlier following an emotional funeral Mass in Aughaloora, Co Cavan.
Extra pews were set up on the grass outside St Patrick's Church to accommodate the huge crowd that turned out .
Members of the local GAA team formed a guard of honour as Connie was brought to the church for a final time.
Mourners were led by his mother, Brigid, and his three brothers and two sisters, one of whom gave birth to a baby girl just hours after the accident.