A COMMUNION celebration ended in tragedy when an eight-year-old girl suffered fatal head injuries in a freak bouncy castle accident.
The bouncy castle had been organised by Paul and Lorraine Byrne to celebrate the First Holy Communion of their daughter, Amy (8).
Amy -- a pupil at Scoil Gobnait primary school in Coolnasmear in west Waterford -- had made her Communion at St Gobnait's Church in Kilgobnet at lunchtime on Saturday and was celebrating with family, neighbours, friends and relatives.
The bouncy castle had apparently been erected near the family home which is in Coolnasmear, close to the village of Colligan. However, shortly after 6pm, while Amy was playing in it, a strong gust of wind partially lifted the bouncy castle.
She apparently lost her footing and fell out of it -- striking her head heavily as she landed on the ground.
Her horrified parents ran to her aid and she was given immediate medical attention.
The child lost consciousness and was rushed to Waterford Regional Hospital in Ardkeen. However, despite desperate efforts by surgeons to stabilise her condition, she was pronounced dead later that night with her parents by her bedside.
The couple -- who run a dairy farm -- were being consoled by friends, neighbours and relatives. The little girl has two siblings.
The whole family had gathered to mark Amy's Communion, having last week celebrated the marriage of Paul's younger brother.
She was so proud of her Communion dress she had wanted to wear it for the wedding.
Parish priest Fr Michael Kennedy said the entire community was in deep shock.
"I was the first priest to give her her Holy Communion and, as it turned out, I was also the last," he said.
"She was such a beautiful little angel -- in fact we had 15 little angels at St Gobnait's last Saturday for the Holy Communions," he added.
Fr Kennedy said he was one of the last people to speak to Amy at the local church in Kilgobnet as he congratulated her before she headed off for her family celebration.
"It's hard to believe that I was congratulating her and just a couple of hours later this could happen. We've a very tight-knit, caring community here and this has hit everyone very hard."
An elderly neighbour said: "It's a dreadful thing to happen for a Holy Communion of all days."
"They are a lovely couple who absolutely dote on their children. They are heartbroken by this freak accident -- we are all devastated," she added.
Dungarvan gardai are investigating the incident and were last night treating it as "a terrible accident."
A post-mortem was carried out at the hospital for Waterford coroner's office. An inquest will be held.
Amy's remains will repose at the family home this evening with Mass of the Angels tomorrow at 11am ins St Gobnait's Church.
A family rosary was to be recited last night.
The funeral will feature a guard of honour by all the classmates who made their First Holy Communion alongside Amy last Saturday.