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As Lesley-Ann McCarragher is laid to rest, Armagh school is hit by second tragedy

16-year-old boy dies suddenly as hundreds line out to pay final respects to girl killed in hit-and-run

By David Young and Allan Preston

Published 14/04/2016

Year 12 pupil John Irwin died suddenly. Picture: City of Armagh High School
Year 12 pupil John Irwin died suddenly. Picture: City of Armagh High School
Popular: John Irwin
Family and Friends attend the funeral of Lesley-Ann McCarragher, 19, at First Presbyterian Church, Armagh. Pic Jonathan Porter Presseye
The order of service for the funeral of Lesley Ann McCarragher
Family members and mourners at the funeral of Co Armagh teenager Lesley-Ann McCarragher
Family members and mourners at the funeral of Co Armagh teenager Lesley-Ann McCarragher
Mourners at the funeral of Co Armagh teenager Lesley-Ann McCarragher
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 13th April 2016 Funeral for hit-and-run victim Lesley-Ann McCarragher at First Presbyterian Church, Armagh. The 19-year-old was jogging near her family home on the Monaghan Road, outside the town, when she was knocked down on Saturday. A 17-year-old male as since been and remains in custody. Picture by Jonathan Porter/PressEye
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 13th April 2016 Funeral for hit-and-run victim Lesley-Ann McCarragher at First Presbyterian Church, Armagh. The 19-year-old was jogging near her family home on the Monaghan Road, outside the town, when she was knocked down on Saturday. A 17-year-old male as since been and remains in custody. Picture by Jonathan Porter/PressEye
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 13th April 2016 Funeral for hit-and-run victim Lesley-Ann McCarragher at First Presbyterian Church, Armagh. The 19-year-old was jogging near her family home on the Monaghan Road, outside the town, when she was knocked down on Saturday. A 17-year-old male as since been and remains in custody. Picture by Jonathan Porter/PressEye
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 13th April 2016 Funeral for hit-and-run victim Lesley-Ann McCarragher at First Presbyterian Church, Armagh. The 19-year-old was jogging near her family home on the Monaghan Road, outside the town, when she was knocked down on Saturday. A 17-year-old male as since been and remains in custody. Picture by Jonathan Porter/PressEye

On Saturday the Irwin family from Tynan in Co Armagh were celebrating their son John's 16th birthday.

Today they are preparing for his funeral.

John, a pupil at City of Armagh High School, where his mum Diane is a governor, collapsed on Tuesday afternoon.

It was the school formerly attended by Lesley-Ann McCarragher, the 19-year-old killed in a hit-and-run in Milford earlier this week.

John, who came from a sheep farming family, was rushed to Craigavon Hospital but medics were unable to save him.

The teenager died surrounded by his family in the early hours of yesterday in the hospital's intensive care unit.

The cause of the boy's death will not be known until after a post-mortem is carried out. A PSNI spokesman said it was not being treated as suspicious.

Read more: Tributes and many tears as 'beautiful princess' is laid to rest

It's understood John went to school as normal on Tuesday, but in the mid afternoon he suffered a seizure. Staff gave him what assistance they could.

Ambulance Service personnel were on the scene quickly and the schoolboy was rushed to hospital.

Rev Matthew Hagan, Rector of St John's Church in Middletown, was with John and the family when he passed away.

Speaking to the Belfast Telegraph last night, the Church of Ireland clergyman said: "It would break your heart. He simply collapsed at school.

"The suddenness, the shock, has left the family devastated.

"John was a quiet young man, very committed to St John's Parish Church, Middletown, as are all the members of his family. John loved farming, and especially working with the sheep.

"The family have my heartfelt and sincere sympathy at this very sad time.

"It's a tragic loss for them."

City of Armagh High School paid tribute to the Year 12 pupil on their Facebook page.

They said: "We at City of Armagh High School mourn the sudden death of John Irwin, one of our year 12 pupils. John was a much loved and highly respected member of our school community who will be missed by all of us.

"We are deeply saddened by this great loss. Our thoughts and prayers are with John’s family at this tragic time, we extend to them our sincerest sympathy and support."

UUP councillor Sam Nicholson is a friend of the Irwin family. Last night he said that John's parents Keith and Diane were in shock at the sudden loss of their beloved son.

Mr Nicholson heard the news of the death as he attended the funeral of Lesley-Ann, a former head girl at City of Armagh High.

"To lose a son so young, it's heartbreaking. These two tragic deaths in the same week have hit everybody hard," he said.

"There's nothing that you can say to the families that will make them feel any better. They will never get over it."

Friends posted messages on social media in tribute.

Katie Neville posted a picture of John and said: "Cannot believe my wee John is gone.

"A best friend to everyone, such a wee sweetheart. Made a fortune for so, so long selling sweets and Lucozade round school and never got caught.

"Loads of memories with my wee star John Irwin! Partner in crime a lot of the time, relationship adviser, and everything. RIP John Irwin. Thoughts with you forever petal xxx"

Another pal, Amiee Robinson, wrote on Facebook: "RIP John, was only talking to you a few hours before, most caring fella I've ever met, brightened up my days. Thoughts and prayers go out to the Irwin family."

And Sam Coulter posted: "There was never a bad word against John. He always came into school with a smile and his head held high.

"John was a person who always cheered you up, he will never be forgotten, school will be a little quiet but in our hearts John is always there."

The chairman of the board of governors, William Scott said, yesterday: "On behalf of the board of governors and the whole school community I wish to express our deepest sympathy with the family of our student, John Irwin, who died this morning.

"John was a much valued student in City of Armagh High School.

"His mother, Mrs Diane Irwin, is very much involved in school life as a member of the board of governors and we very much appreciate the contribution of the wider family circle to the life of the school.

"We assure John's parents, siblings and wider family circle that they are all in our thoughts and prayers at this difficult time."

Armagh DUP councillor Freda Donnelly also knows the Irwin family.

"To lose a child is every parent's nightmare, and I know the community will support the family at this very difficult time," Ms Donnelly said.

Friends said the Irwin family were too shocked to speak about their loss.

Former MLA Danny Kennedy, who visited the family yesterday, said: "People are stunned. This is another tragedy for Armagh and for the school.

"The family told me they are grateful to the staff at the City of Armagh School who tried to help John, to the emergency services and to the medical staff at Craigavon who tried to save his life."

Mr Kennedy said that the teenager had no medical history that could have given any early warning.

"His mother told me he'd hardly been to the doctor's since he was a toddler," the former Stormont minister said.

Funeral arrangements have yet to be finalised.

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