Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 23 October 2014

Family devastated after River Lagan swim turns to tragedy

A young Belfast man whose body was recovered from the River Lagan yesterday is believed to have jumped into the river for an early morning swim with friends.

Michael Young’s body was discovered in the river at 11.30am yesterday close to Cutters Wharf in the south of the city following a large search operation.

The alarm was raised after the 22-year-old from the Rosetta area went into the river with friends at about 6am on Saturday.

When he did not re-appear, his friends phoned the emergency services and rescue services were scrambled. Friends and family of Michael stood anxiously by the side of the river throughout the search operation which included the use of divers and recovery dogs.

His lifeless body was found yesterday morning and removed from the water.

Four other men who also went into the water on Saturday morning were treated in hospital but their injuries were not serious.

Michael’s family was too upset to speak yesterday. There was a steady stream throughout the day of people calling to express their condolences at the terraced house off the Ormeau Road.

SDLP councillor Peter O’Reilly has been a neighbour and close friend of the Young family for the past three decades.

He worked with Michael’s father Seamus at the Knockbracken Healthcare Park where Seamus worked as a psychiatric nurse until his retirement.

He visited the home yesterday and said the family were “distraught” at the loss of their eldest son.

“Michael’s family live about ten doors up from me,” said Mr O’Reilly.

“He was like any other young lad, he enjoyed himself out and about and was very popular.

“People in the area can’t believe it, it is so hard to accept.

“My thoughts and sympathies are with Michael’s family.”

Seamus and his wife Bernie have another son — Emmett — and two twin daughters.

Another neighbour said he understood Michael and four to six other young men had jumped into the Lagan “in high jinks”.

He said when the others climbed out of the water Michael was nowhere to be seen.

Michael — a former pupil of Lagan College — was a Glasgow Celtic fan and played gaelic games.

SDLP councillor Pat McCarthy extended his condolences to the dead man’s family.

“This is a tragedy for all concerned at a young life lost,” he said.

“This young man had his whole life in front of him.”

A resident said that with the recent warm weather there had been an increase in the number of people swimming in the river.

Mr McCarthy added: “It seems he went for a swim in the river.

“This should bring home how dangerous the water can be.

“I hope people learn from this tragedy and respect the water.”

A post mortem is expected to take place today.

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