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Take care of yourselves, priest tells young mourners at crash funerals


The cortege for Kevin Rafter ahead of his funeral yesterday

The cortege for Kevin Rafter ahead of his funeral yesterday

The cortege for Kevin Rafter ahead of his funeral yesterday

Clockwise from above: The cortege for Kevin Rafter ahead of his funeral yesterday; Kevin Rafter; Robert Byrne; Robert's parents, Mary and Frank, and grandmother Bridget. Frank McGrath

TEARS rolled down a schoolgirl's cheeks as she stood against a stone wall outside a church.

Just a stone's throw from where the Leaving Cert student stood in the rain, two teenagers were killed in a horrific crash on bank holiday Monday.

Kevin Rafter (17) and his childhood pal Robert Byrne (18) had been to a nightclub in Enniscorthy. They returned to their home village of Ballindaggin, Co Wexford, by minibus and Robert offered to drive Kevin, and another friend, to their houses nearby.

Robert had left one of the boys home and was coming around a bend on a familiar country road when he lost control of his small Peugeot car.

Robert's car ploughed into the pillar of a wall. He and Kevin, who was in the passenger seat, were ejected from the car.

Neighbours contacted emergency services after they found them lying on the roadside.

Parish priest Fr John Seery -- who knew the two young men well -- rushed to anoint them.

Yesterday at the funeral Mass of Robert Byrne, Fr Seery expressed how he had felt relief at seeing the two young men were still alive.

But Robert died in the ambulance on the way to hospital, while Kevin died in hospital some time later.

"Life is very precious. God has given you a life that you must take care of," Fr Seery explained to the young people who crowded inside the church.

"You must take care. There are many obstacles out there but each and every one of us need to take care and, with the help of God, we will live as long as we can."

Up to 2,000 people descended on the small village yesterday to attend the two funerals.

Robert's heartbroken parents Frank and Mary buried their son in the cemetery behind St Colman's Church.

He was due to celebrate his 19th birthday next month.

Friends had earlier brought his phone, a Playstation game, a model car and a spanner to the altar -- gifts that symbolised Robert's short life.

Some hours later, Kevin Rafter's friends brought a football to the altar to symbolise his love for GAA and soccer. A hurley and a miniature toy dog were also among the gifts.

Kevin was described by Fr Seery as a "special character" who was loved by everyone.

Meanwhile, Robert's brother, Christopher, expressed his devastation at losing his "best friend".

"He was a gentle giant with a kind and warm heart," Christopher said.

Irish Independent