Everybody in Comber knew Channing Day. The 25-year-old — renowned for her beaming smile and sense of humour — was hugely popular in the small Co Down town which was yesterday struggling to come to terms with her death.
There was heartache as the awful news spread. But there was also glowing admiration for Channing and the entire family circle who are well-known throughout the area.
Despite moving from Comber in 2005 to fulfil her lifetime dream of serving as a medic in the Army, Channing was vividly remembered by everyone in her home town. They reflected with fondness on the bubbly and warm young woman.
Prior to embarking on her career with the armed services, Channing spent one year working as a hairdresser at JKS salon on Bridge Street. Her mother had also worked as a hairdresser locally.
Joannie Stevenson from JKS said Channing spoke constantly — both with work-mates and customers — of her desire to join the Army.
“Channing worked here after school and was a lovely wee girl,” said Ms Stevenson. “She was always smiling, always happy. She loved life.
“She was always telling us about joining the Army and we would keep her going that she was too small for that.”
Channing’s longing for a career in the military was cemented in 2002 when she spent one week’s work experience at an Army base.
Friend Janet Walker said Comber was numbed by Channing’s death. “No-one can believe it and everyone is talking about it today,” she said. “Even if you didn’t know Channing when you came into her company she would make herself known.
“She was so outgoing and friendly. She spoke to everyone.”
Channing’s mother is from the Comber area and her father is from Cheltenham in England.
Friends said Channing, who had been living in Preston and was attached to the 3 Medical Regiment, kept in touch regularly with friends and family back home, especially her sisters Lauren and Laken.
Before moving to England, Channing was heavily involved in local sports clubs, in particular the Northland Raiders women’s football club.
A coach at the club, Kim Funston, said of Channing: “She always had a wee smile on her face, nothing bothered her. She was liked by everyone.”
She also excelled at sport while a pupil at Strangford College.
Principal Paul Maxwell said: “I can remember Channing (at school) as if it was yesterday.
“Therefore it becomes more poignant because someone we remember being so young and was so young was tragically killed in such a way.
“She was a great girl...really bubbly, really bright, outgoing, enthusiastic. She had lots of friends.
“She was extremely good at sports. She played football for Northern Ireland ladies, she played netball for the school...she got an A* in her GCSE PE, she did trampolining and gymnastics outside school. She was just a real all-rounder.”
Channing also volunteered with various youth groups and worked on projects aimed at improving cross-community relations in the Comber area. The family attends Comber Baptist Church.
A neighbour of the Day family spoke in glowing terms of Channing. “Channing and my daughter were very close and I knew her since she was a very young child,” she said. “She was always so well-mannered and thoughtful, even as a child, and in later years was a beautiful and caring young woman.
“Her family are well-known in Comber and everyone is heartbroken to think what they must be going through.”
Comber has a long historical connection with the armed forces.
A Cenotaph in the middle of the town honours those from the area who were killed on military service.
A resident said many local families have sons and daughters currently abroad with the Army.
“This has brought it home to many of them,” he said.
“Comber is a tight-knit wee town and we will all rally together and do what we can for the family. Everyone is sharing in their grief.”
There was a steady stream of mourners to the family home throughout yesterday.
They were too distressed to speak of their loss.