Friday 23 August 2019

Family of man who died following 'one-punch' assault on beach 'torn into a million pieces'

Darren O'Neill
Darren O'Neill

Lauren Harte

The family of a man who died following a 'one-punch' assault on a Co Down beach say they have been "torn into a million pieces" following his untimely death.

Darren O'Neill (22), from Belfast, was admitted to hospital following the incident at Tyrella beach in Downpatrick at around 7.30pm on Thursday. He passed away in hospital on Saturday.

A post-mortem examination will be carried out to determine the cause of death.

A 21-year-old man, believed to be a friend of the deceased, has been charged with grievous bodily harm in relation to the incident and will appear in court later this month.

A car enthusiast, Mr O'Neill, who was from the Turf Lodge area, was attacked just days after attending the Donegal International Rally.

His death is the latest tragedy to hit his family as his young sister Lauren died in recent years.

Members of Mr O'Neill's family have taken to social media to pay tribute to him.

His grieving sister Nikita described him as the "happiest and most loving person to be around".

His cousin Mick Kerr wrote: "After a hard fought lot of days, you gained your angel wings.

"To most people we were just cousins, but to me, you were a teacher and the big brother that never took your eyes off me.

"We know you're going to be watching over us all and helping us to get through the hard days and showing us the light to the better days.

"I've never seen someone as happy as you in my life, always full of joy, always ready to make friends.

"You really did try to see the best in everyone no matter who they were.

"You will always be in my dreams at night and my heart forever throughout my life.

"Until our paths meet again, I love you brother.

"Another life took too soon and another family torn apart."

Another cousin Michelle Kerr said she had been left "absolutely heartbroken" by the tragic loss.

She continued: "My family have been torn into a million pieces and for what

"Darren please give us all the strength to get through this nightmare!

"Sleep tight our beautiful angel."

One friend, Paddy McIlwaine, described Mr O'Neill as a "gentleman" who you "couldn't say a bad word about".

Members of St James' Swifts football club, where Mr O'Neill's brother Kyle is a player, held a minute's silence in his memory at their annual presentation awards night on Saturday.

Tributes were also paid at north Belfast's Shamrock Football Club where Mr O'Neill's two sisters, Danielle and Nikita, play.

A club spokesperson said: "All at Shamrock FC would like to pass on their sincerest condolences to two of our ladies players, Danielle and Nikita, and their family on the untimely passing of their brother Darren O'Neill under such tragic circumstances. May he rest in peace."

Sinn Fein MP Chris Hazzard said the Co Down community was in shock following the young man's death.

"There is shock and sadness in the local community following the death of a 22-year-old man in an incident in Tyrella beach," he said.

"A police investigation is under way and that must be allowed to proceed.

"My thoughts and sympathies are with the family and friends of this young man at this tragic time."

Former SDLP MP and party leader Margaret Ritchie tweeted yesterday: "Deepest sympathies to the family of the young man, Darren O'Neill, who lost his life as a result of an incident at Tyrella Beach last week.

"Thoughts and prayers with all."

The man (21) charged with grievous bodily harm is due to appear at Downpatrick Magistrates' Court on Thursday, July 25.

The charges will be reviewed by the PPS, as is standard procedure.

PSNI Detective Chief Inspector Darren McCartney has appealed for information regarding the incident.

He said: "I would like to offer my sympathy to the family and friends of Darren at this very sad time.

"Our enquiries are ongoing to establish the full circumstances surrounding Darren's death and I would appeal to anyone who may have witnessed this incident or who has any information to contact detectives on 101, quoting reference number 1913 June 27."

Belfast Telegraph

Editor's Choice

Also in Irish News