Family and friends 'shell-shocked' after young woman's death on holidays
The devastated mother of Shankill woman Leah Weir, who died suddenly while on holiday, has travelled to France to bring her daughter's body home.
Deborah Weir left Belfast yesterday morning on the most heartbreaking of journeys after her 28-year-old daughter passed away suddenly on Sunday morning.
Leah - who was affectionately called Lele by those closest to her - was in Cannes celebrating the 30th birthday of one of her best friends. The group had been staying on a yacht.
Her friend Thomas Watson, who spoke with Leah just hours before her tragic death, said her circle of friends was "shell-shocked".
"It is a heartbreak," he said.
"Leah was the girl who would put a smile on your face in the worst situation.
"You could be in the darkest hole and she would have shone a light for you. She knew how to cheer you up when you were down. She always knew the right thing to say and the right thing to do whenever you needed it.
"I was talking to her just hours before she died. I asked her how she was getting along and she said she was having the time of her life and was loving it.
"There was no sign at all anything was wrong. It breaks my heart because I was talking to her so much leading up to her death and I didn't click on to how she was really feeling. I didn't look past that beautiful smile that she had always put on. I didn't look deeper. It pains me so much. I know myself from past experience how to put on a smile.
"Everyone is just devastated. They are left speechless. We have 100 questions, but Lele has taken the answers with her. They're answers we'll never get. None of us seen it coming at all. We are all shell-shocked and heartbroken."
Thomas pleaded with others who may be feeling down to "reach out a hand".
"It's okay to talk, it's okay to reach out, it's okay to speak to people," he said.
Pastor Johnny McKee from the New Life City Church was a close friend of Leah's. He said the Weir family and the wider community are simply heartbroken.
"Everyone is absolutely devastated by Leah's death," he commented. "Her family are in complete and total shock. Her mum is in France at the moment and they are hoping to bring Leah back on Friday. She has flown over there just to be with Leah, to bring her child home.
"It is the most difficult and heartbreaking of journeys to make. I was with her mum Deborah last night before she left and she is just devastated and in shock.
"Leah was such a popular girl, well known and well loved in the community. She had a ton of friends who loved her. I've known Leah for a long, long time. I would have been the youth pastor in the church and Leah would have came here from the age of six. Leah grew up here in the church and into her early teen years she was a part of the church and youth club.
"She was very bright, she was always enthusiastic and wanted to help. She was so easy to connect with and get on with. She was a fun person, but she also did have her troubles.
"She was very outspoken about her mental health and even created a blog to speak about it. She used that as a way for her to communicate what she was going through but also to connect with other people, to let them know that she has been through it and connect with her, that she'd help. She was looking for a way to take what she was going through and turn it into a positive.
"For many years she had struggled with a lot of different things but certainly tried to turn that into a positive by helping other people."
Pastor McKee urged anyone struggling with mental health issues to "talk to friends, talk to family".
If you have been affected by this article, you can phone the Samaritans on 116123, or email firstname.lastname@example.org