'Valley of tears' as three tragic teenagers who died in crush are laid to rest
Grief for 'caring, charismatic' students
The deaths of three teenagers outside a disco have created a "valley of tears", the head of the Catholic Church in Ireland has said.
Morgan Barnard (17), Lauren Bullock (17) and Connor Currie (16) died following a crush near the entrance to the Greenvale Hotel in Cookstown on St Patrick's Day.
Schoolchildren formed tearful guards of honour during back-to-back funerals attended by thousands of friends and relatives yesterday.
"Words fail us at times like this. All that really matters, and makes a difference, is love and friendship and compassion," Archbishop Eamon Martin told mourners.
"And only faith can dare to speak into the darkness of these days to offer a glimmer of light and hope in this valley of tears."
On the day of the tragedy, hundreds of young people had just arrived on buses and were waiting outside the Greenvale Hotel to get into the nightspot. Police said some fell and were crushed underfoot.
Hotel owner Michael McElhatton (52) was arrested earlier in the week on suspicion of manslaughter and bailed to return for future questioning.
A 40-year-old man arrested on suspicion of manslaughter has also been released on police bail pending further enquiries.
Fr David Moore reflected at Lauren's funeral: "St Patrick's Day 2019 will be called to mind as the awful day when three beautiful young people, all in the prime of their lives, were overpowered, literally, in the mad rush of our modern world and needlessly lost their lives.
"On Sunday night, and during the early hours of Monday, a dark and threatening cloud hung over all of us as we struggled to understand and come to terms with the tragic turn of events on what ought to have been a night of fun, dance, friendship and laughter."
Morgan's funeral was the first to be held on a solemn day which saw all three teenagers laid to rest. Schoolchildren formed a guard of honour in tribute to the young victim at St Patrick's Church in Dungannon, Co Tyrone.
Morgan's family, who said the teenager brightened people's lives with his humour, had encouraged friends and family to wear Hawaiian shirts or sports tops to the service.
In his homily, Fr Aidan McCann said it was an understatement to say Morgan was well-liked.
"He was a vivacious, charismatic and energetic young man who nobody had a bad word to say about," he said.
"Morgan was a person of character who had a great sense of humour with an abundance of wit - always a smile on his face. You could never pass him on the corridor in school, and no doubt anywhere else, without getting a warm look or a quick joke as he passed."
While reading a prayer at the service, one of Morgan's friends paid an emotional tribute.
"Morgan was my best friend and no matter where he is he will always be my best friend. And I am going to love him forever," he said.
Lauren's requiem Mass was held an hour later at St Patrick's Church in Donaghmore, before a funeral service for Connor took place in the village of Edendork yesterday afternoon. Lauren was carried into St Patrick's in a pink and white casket adorned with flowers ahead of requiem Mass. She was borne through the churchyard in Donaghmore followed by an enormous but silent crowd which had accompanied her on her final journey.
Schoolchildren lined the street while the bell at St Patrick's tolled.
Chief celebrant at the service Fr Moore said the three victims had lost their lives "needlessly".
He described the schoolgirl as the "essence of a wonderful and caring daughter, sister, granddaughter, niece to her family and a loyal and caring friend to so many others".
Fr Moore said Lauren's friends described her as having a "warm and bubbly personality with a very infectious smile".
"That's a lovely picture for all of us to have of her in our minds today," he said.
A funeral pamphlet had a photograph of Lauren with her dog on the front. Purple-clad members of Lauren's cheerleading group, Euphoria Allstar Cheerleading NI, formed a guard of honour as she was taken from the church.
Other cheerleading squads were also part of the line-up, as well as dozens of children from local schools.
Dr Martin, leader of the Catholic Church in Ireland, said: "Here in Co Tyrone this week - as families, parishes, schools and communities - we've been circling each other around with love and faith and kindness and compassion.
"The shocking events of Sunday last have reminded us that life is very fragile. We need to cherish every moment and always look out for each other, and keep each other safe."
Connor was remembered by more than 1,000 at nearby St Malachy's Church in Edendork as a "courteous and appreciative" student who wanted to become an accountant. Former teammates at Edendork St Malachy's GAA club formed a tight circle around his coffin in a final tribute.
His mother Ciara and father Eamon described him as a "gem".
Fr Kevin Donaghy told the mourners: "Teachers remember him as a courteous and appreciative young student, always in the habit of saying thank you as he left the classroom," he said.
"A conscientious student, he had his sights set on doing accountancy, the office desk and computer set up in his bedroom a sure sign that he was preparing for a life of paperwork, computers and figures." Emotions were high as prayers were read for Connor and the two other victims of last weekend's tragic events.
Following Requiem Mass, Connor was laid to rest in the adjoining cemetery.