The body of a six-year-old Londonderry boy who drowned in a reservoir two days into a family holiday in Portugal will arrive back in Northern Ireland next week.
Nathan Sharkey from the Braefield estate in Claudy was pronounced dead in the early hours of Thursday — less than 36 hours after the family arrived in the Algarve.
Martin and Kelly Sharkey had only left the village on the outskirts of Derry to go on their summer holiday on Tuesday with Nathan, his twin brother Matthew and younger sibling Christopher.
Nathan’s body is due to be flown home next Thursday, July 31.
A local priest today told of how the boys’ parents had phoned home on Wednesday to say they were having a great time just hours before tragedy struck.
Fr Neil Farren from the Ardmore Parish, yesterday comforted the youngster’s paternal grandparents Christopher and Shiela at their home in the Curryneirin estate in Derry.
Fr Farren said: “Nathan’s parents and grandparents are just devastated. Martin and Kelly are a very loving couple. I remember seeing them in church recently and seeing young Nathan in the arms of his mother and that sense of loving care that was there.
“They were staying in a rural area near the coast.
“There was a man-made reservoir next door. He slipped out of their sight for one minute and they quickly looked for him and found him at the bottom of the reservoir.
“This happened on Wednesday evening. Shortly before, Nathan’s parents had phoned to say they were having a great time, but then their dream holiday turned into a nightmare.”
Martin Sharkey tried desperately to resuscitate his son before paramedics arrived on the scene and transferred Nathan to hospital.
He was later taken to the intensive care unit at a larger hospital where he was pronounced dead.
Nathan was a pupil of Foyle View School in the Belmont area of Derry — a controlled special school for children with severe learning difficulties.
Foyle View principal Dr Michael Dobbins last night said staff and pupils had been left shocked and devastated by the tragedy.
Dr Dobbins said: “Nathan was a lovely wee boy and he will be sadly missed by everybody who knew him. We are all devastated. It is a terrible tragedy for his family and everybody’s thoughts are with the Sharkey family, who absolutely doted on him.
“Words just escape you to think that such a tragedy could happen to such a lovely wee boy and such a great family.”
SDLP Councillor for the Claudy area Brenda Stevenson — who knew Nathan through her work at the speech and language unit at Foyle View — said the village was in a state of shock as news of Nathan’s death filtered through yesterday.
Ms Stevenson said: “He was a lovely wee boy, a typical six-year-old, mischievious and bubbly. This is a terrible loss for Claudy; a terrible, terrible tragedy, and our thoughts and prayers are with the family.
“What started off as a relaxing family holiday has turned into the most utter tragedy and now we will have a family coming home utterly devastated.”