Belfast Telegraph

Comfort in the aftermath of tragedy: Families of anglers who died in boat capsize find solace in the overwhelming support they received

By Ivan Little

The families of the two Co Armagh fishermen who died in a boating accident in the Republic last month have issued an emotional thank-you message to people north and south of the border for their support throughout the tragedy.

And organisers of two trust funds set up to help the relatives of Portadown man Daryl Burke and his friend David Warnock, from Richhill, have said the response from both sides of the community in Co Armagh has been "astonishing".

Mr Warnock (27) died after he fell from a capsized boat on Lough Ree in Co Roscommon, but it was only after an agonising 16-day search that the body of 30-year-old Mr Burke was found, as his pregnant wife Louise kept up a heartbreaking vigil at the lough shore along with other members of the family.

Dozens of people travelled from Northern Ireland to take part in the search, with local people also helping and supporting the effort to find Mr Burke's body.

The poor weather conditions and the size and depth of the lough, which borders three counties, also hampered the efforts to recover the angler's remains.

The two men had been among a six-strong party from the Portadown Pikers fishing club who had travelled south last month for a four-day camping and angling expedition on Lough Ree.

A third man, John Trimble (60), from Markethill, who was pulled from the water, is said to be making a good recovery from his injuries.

The other three anglers were in a second boat which escaped undamaged in the freak squall that capsized the craft the dead men were in.

In a joint statement, the Burke and Warnock families said they wanted to thank people for their prayers and support during their ordeal.

They also thanked the emergency services and divers in the Republic who helped in the rescue bid and the subsequent search.

The statement said the efforts "of so many people have been overwhelming at a time so tragic and so painful".

With reference to the trust funds, the families said: "Portadown Pikers committee have set up a support group to help co-ordinate everyone's efforts."

The interim chairman of the committee, Nick Hutchinson, who went to primary school with Daryl, said: "The support has been astonishing.

"We are only really getting started with our campaign to help the families but already there are 80 donation boxes out in the local area and coffee shops, local businesses and supermarkets are all backing us.

"Churches on both sides of the community have been holding collections and schools are organising no-uniform days and there are cycling events too."

One school in Markethill has already raised a four-figure sum for the funds.

Mr Hutchinson added: "We are also organising digital fundraising through our own website and through a JustGiving page."

Mr Burke's wife, Louise, is expecting the couple's fourth child, a girl, early next month.

Mr Warnock lived with his fiancée Sandra Kerr and their three-year-old son, Matthew.

In a moving tribute, she called Mr Warnock "my soulmate, my life, my rock, my whole world, my every breath".

Mr Burke was buried with a scan of his unborn daughter attached to his lapel and a photograph of his three sons – William (7), Callum (4) and Brooklyn (2) – as well as a picture of his wife.

Mr Burke had battled and overcome testicular cancer some 10 years ago.

In a tribute to the victims, the Portadown Pikers said David, their club chairman, had an infectious personality and warm smile, while their vice-chairman Daryl was the energetic and upbeat driving force behind the organising of the group's events and activities.

The club said the Portadown Cares charity was co-ordinating fundraising efforts and that details can be found at www.portadownpikers.co.uk

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