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Bride's home town struggles to come to terms with awful tragedy that's shocked province and beyond

By Cate McCurry

Published 27/10/2015

Holywood has been left numb with grief.

The Co Down town where Lynette Rodgers grew up has been plunged into sadness as locals try to come to terms with the tragic deaths of the newlyweds.

Friends and neighbours calling to the home of Lynette's mother were too upset to talk, saying only that it was a heartbreaking time for the family.

Their honeymoon in South Africa was to mark the beginning of the rest of their lives together, but it quickly turned into their families' worst nightmare when John (28), from Ballynahinch, drowned with his new bride.

Family, friends and work colleagues of the couple spoke of the sheer devastation brought by the deaths.

Lynette, who worked as a physiotherapist, was described as a loving, kind and perfect daughter by her heartbroken mother Eva.

"Life is cruel. I will miss her dearly," she told UTV yesterday.

"It's total devastation. It's everybody's nightmare, every parent's nightmare.

"She was over the Moon and it was such a happy day and she loved every minute of it. They were the perfect couple."

The couple were together for six years and friends and family say they were very much in love.

They were honeymooning in Plettenberg Bay on Friday when they decided to go to the beach for a swim, but were caught in a strong riptide.

Rosemary Ferguson, the captain of the Girls' Brigade (GB) where Lynette was a member, said their wedding day was filled with love and happiness.

"It was amazing that after having known her all the years from when she was three going through GB, then to see her on her wedding day, she was so happy," she said.

"You just don't think that it's going to happen to someone so young and it's very distressing when it's a young couple setting out on life together and it's been taken from them.

"As captain of the GB I would like to say on behalf of the officers and girls that our prayers and thoughts are with them at this time and we will be there and support them through this grief."

Reverend Noble McNeely, who married the couple on Saturday week at First Holywood Presbyterian Church, said that she played a very active role in the church.

"Certainly, they were looking forward with excitement and a lot of anticipation to the life they were going to share together. They were so excited about going to South Africa," he said.

Lynette had previously worked at the Clandeboye Lodge Hotel until she graduated a number of years ago.

Shocked staff at the hotel described her as a great person, outgoing and a valued member of the team.

John worked as an engineer at Calvert Office Equipment in Belfast and had spoken of his excitement for the honeymoon.

Managing director Robert Calvert, described his enthusiasm, drive and natural ability since joining the team earlier this year.

He said: "We have been overwhelmed by the number of customers who have contacted us to convey messages of support to both John and Lynette's families, clearly reflecting how popular John was with so many of them.

"John was really excited to be married and was relishing their trip to South Africa, discussing his plans frequently with colleagues and customers alike.

"We are all devastated by the loss of John and Lynette."

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