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Sunday 17 December 2017

President shares in family's pain as 10-gun salute honours cadet

Donal Jevens salutes the coffin of son David, with wife Liz and family at the graveside in Barntown, Co Wexford, yesterday
Donal Jevens salutes the coffin of son David, with wife Liz and family at the graveside in Barntown, Co Wexford, yesterday

Conor Kane

HE lived to serve the State; in death the State saluted him.

With full military honours and Ireland's first citizen in attendance, Cadet David Jevens was laid to rest yesterday after a life short in years but long in achievement.

A 10-gun salute pierced the silence of the quiet country churchyard in Co Wexford as the young Air Corps pilot was buried in front of anguished family members and friends. Two military aircraft performing a fly-past in David's honour, one of them peeling away to symbolise a lost colleague.

It seemed a large chunk of Ireland's defence forces had joined together in this corner of the south-east -- Barntown, outside Wexford town -- to say farewell and to pay tribute to the young trainee who, had he survived last Monday evening's crash in Connemara, would have turned 22 the following day. Captain Derek Furniss, David's instructor on that fateful training exercise from Baldonnel and who was also killed when their PC9 crashed into a hillside, will be buried today in Dublin.


A 100-strong guard of honour was provided by the Air Corps, with members carrying the coffin after it was carried from the gun-carriage which had brought it from the Jevens' family home to St Alphonsus' Church.

The band of the army's First Southern Brigade played 'Celtic Lament' behind the coffin, which was draped in the Tricolour and carried David's official cap, gloves and belt. The defence forces personnel made way as the coffin entered the church watched on by David's parents, Liz and Donal; sister Sarah, brother Christopher, girlfriend Niamh Fenlon, and other family members -- their eyes filled with tears, but their hearts filled with pride.

Later, the hundreds of mourners were reminded by David's father that flying was all his son wanted to do.

"I remember us being out late on summer evenings, lying on our backs in the back garden and looking at the night sky. We lay there looking at shooting stars and counting them and seeing who could see the biggest flash and watching the satellites and the planes going by," Mr Jevens said before the funeral Mass ended.

"David always talked about how he wanted to be there some day -- and he did and he's up there now."

He spoke of the shock and the heartbreak which coursed through the family following the fatal crash. "No more car driving into the yard on a Friday evening, the front door banging closed, the bag on the floor and the keys hitting the hall table, hard; the impatient rush to tell us about his adventures during the week.

"Sometimes it took the entire weekend -- we listened intently because David's week was our week also." David loved cars, loved playing football and hurling with the local GAA club, loved music from the 70s and 80, but "flying was his life," said his dad. "We love you, David, keep on flying for us," he finished, to sustained applause in the little church.

As well as President Mary McAleese, the mourners included Defence Minister Willie O'Dea, Defence Forces Chief of Staff Lieutenant General Dermot Earley, Air Corps Head Brigadier General Ralph James, and Head of the Naval Service Commodore Frank Lynch.

In his homily, Fr Pat Stafford said David had "lived life to the full" and that everyone present for his farewell was privileged to have known him.

"For us gathered here, it's an opportunity reflect on what the life of David was. When you go out and look up into the sky, don't look up and see tragedy -- see peace and joy, love and forgiveness."

Irish Independent

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