Family heartbreak as Nicola arrives home in pink coffin
A HAND reached out to touch the window of the black hearse that carried a wooden box draped in an Irish flag.
Nicola Furlong should have been bouncing through the arrivals hall of Dublin airport to embrace her family.
Instead of hearing stories of her adventures and travels, her heartbroken parents were at the airport morgue.
Nicola's mum Angie buried her face in her hands. Nearby her dad, Andrew, was a broken man.
Other family members stood in complete shock and clutched each other. As rain pelted down, the family prepared for a long journey to the funeral home in Gorey, Co Wexford.
DCU student Nicola couldn't wait to finish her year abroad in a Japanese university so she could come home.
Andrew had listened to his daughter chatting excitedly on Skype just a few short days ago. She was going to cook him spaghetti bolognese soon.
She had told him about how she scaled Mount Fuji and braved the biggest rollercoaster in the world.
While Nicola had made lots of friends, her dad knew she missed Curracloe, the seaside village where she grew up.
She missed her boyfriend, local footballer Danny Furlong, and was making plans for the summer and her return to college to complete her degree in business and Japanese.
Nicola's life was brutally cut short when she was killed on Wednesday last.
Her night had started out on a high -- attending a rap concert with her college pal -- before they missed their train back to the university where they were staying on campus.
Yesterday, her deeply traumatised friend, who cannot recollect the events of the horrific night, arrived home. Police are investigating if the two women were drugged and plied with alcohol by two young American men before being sexually assaulted.
Nicola was found unconscious on the floor of a hotel room and she died as she was rushed to hospital.
Nicola's remains were flown almost 10,000km before she touched down in Dublin before midday yesterday.
Her parents were inconsolable as they looked at the wooden box carrying Nicola's body. Family members travelled to Gorey where Nicola's remains were delicately placed in a pink coffin -- her favourite colour.
Nearby in Curracloe, Nicola's relatives, neighbours and friends were preparing for the young woman's homecoming.
As the undertaker pulled into the driveway of Nicola's home, her family sobbed.
A grief-stricken Andrew held on to Denis Corrigan, who offered the devastated dad some support.
The family have opened up their home to Nicola's relatives, friends and neighbours for the coming days. They will wake their daughter in Curracloe.
Funeral arrangements had still not been announced late last night. However, the young woman's funeral Mass is expected to take place this weekend.