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Sunday 17 December 2017

'Michaela was taken from us and our world became dark' - Tragic girl (9) who died at pool laid to rest

Michaela Gonda (9) was laid to rest today in Saggart
Michaela Gonda (9) was laid to rest today in Saggart
A teddybear beside the coffin after the funeral of Michaela Gonda at the Church of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Saggart. Photo: Damien Eagers 17/5/2017
Yvonne Gonda, centre, is consoled after the funeral of her daughter, Michaela Gonda at the Church of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Saggart. Photo: Damien Eagers
Mike Gonda, right carries the coffin after the funeral of his daughter, Michaela Gonda at the Church of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Saggart. Photo: Damien Eagers

Alan O'Keeffe

A couple whose only child died at a Dublin swimming pool bravely wore white t-shirts with her smiling image at her funeral today.

Mike and Yvonne Gonda were embraced by friends at the Requiem Mass for their nine-year-old daughter Michaela at the Church in Saggart, County Dublin.

Yvonne Gonda, centre, is consoled after the funeral of her daughter, Michaela Gonda at the Church of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Saggart. Photo: Damien Eagers
Yvonne Gonda, centre, is consoled after the funeral of her daughter, Michaela Gonda at the Church of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Saggart. Photo: Damien Eagers

Mike Gonda carried the white coffin of his daughter who died on Friday despite his frantic efforts when he plunged into a swimming pool to lift her from the water.

A large crowd, including several families from the Filipino community, filled the Church of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary for the funeral of the popular young schoolgirl.

Michaela Gonda tragically fell ill at a swimming pool in Dublin
Michaela Gonda tragically fell ill at a swimming pool in Dublin

Fr Aidan Kieran said her heartbroken parents and loved ones will miss "her smile, her laugh, her kisses, her voice."

"Our hearts are broken...a bright light, Michaela, was taken from us and our world became a darker place," he said.

He paid tribute to the courage of Michaela who had suffered from a heart condition.

Loud sobs and the sound of children crying inconsolably filled the air as Mike Gonda and his friends carried the coffin from the church into the bright sunshine.

An honour guard from the National Ambulance Service escorted the coffin. Yvonne works as an accident and emergency nurse at Saint James's Hospital in Dublin and many of the staff sympathised with the Michaela's mourning parents.

Guards of honour were provided by Michaela's school friends from the nearby Saggart National School.  Track suited members of the Pulse Triathlon Club and Dublin Bay Running Club provided guards of honour also as Mike is a member of both clubs.

A lone piper from Dublin Fire Brigade played a heart-rending version of Welsh hymn Suo Gan, which means 'sleep my baby.'

Michaela was having a swimming lesson at the Tallaght Community School Sports Complex in Balrothery, Co Dublin, when she fell ill on Friday evening.

Mike Gonda, right carries the coffin after the funeral of his daughter, Michaela Gonda at the Church of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Saggart. Photo: Damien Eagers
Mike Gonda, right carries the coffin after the funeral of his daughter, Michaela Gonda at the Church of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Saggart. Photo: Damien Eagers

Her devastated father spoke at the weekend of his efforts to save his only child.

He said "She was at her swimming class and myself and my wife Yvonne were watching her. She was calling 'Mammy, look at me' and 'Daddy, can you see me swimming?' And we were watching her.

"Then she disappeared and we couldn't see her anymore. My wife asked 'Where's Michaela?' And I ran over to the pool, where I saw her underwater.

"I jumped into the pool to save her. I would do anything for her."

He said efforts were made to resuscitate her at the pool. She was transferred to Our Lady's Children's Hospital in Crumlin where she was pronounced dead.

He said she was a happy, loving, smart child who "loved singing, swimming, cycling, dancing."

He said she was born with a heart problem and underwent two operations during her life. She had heart surgery as a baby and again two years ago.

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