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Dearbhla Harbinson touched the lives of everyone she met, says father of student who died after night out

By Cate McCurry

The heartbroken father of an 18-year-old who collapsed and died following a night out has told how his "caring" daughter touched the lives of everyone she met.

Dearbhla Harbinson, from Co Antrim, died after becoming ill at a house in west Belfast days before Christmas.

The student's father Lenny said she had just recently returned home from Dublin, where she attended university, for the holidays.

The first year psychology student was with friends when she suddenly became unwell.

She was taken to the Royal Victoria Hospital, where she spent two days in the intensive care unit before dying on Friday.

Her family is awaiting the results of a post-mortem examination.

Speaking from his home yesterday, Mr Harbinson, who is prominent in Antrim GAA circles, said the death had left him shocked bereft.

"We are devastated by the untimely death of our daughter. She was a very affectionate, loving and caring girl," he said.

"She was associated with the school community in many aspects and touched the lives of everyone.

"Many people turned up to show their condolences. She was very talented creatively and academically. It's just a terrible loss for us.

"She had just started her first term at University College Dublin.

"She loved her course and was getting on very well. She finished one of her exams recently and was due to go back and do more exams.

"Her brother and sister, Darren and Etaoin, are also in Dublin. Dearbhla was in the Royal Hospital since the early hours of last Wednesday morning, but unfortunately died on Friday.

"She was getting fantastic support and help from staff in the intensive care unit.

"They did everything possible for her.

"It's devastating... we are in shock."

Hundreds of mourners attended the funeral of the former Rathmore Grammar School pupil at St Joseph's Church in Glenavy on Boxing Day.

Speaking during the Requiem Mass, Father Colm McBride said: "Dearbhla was a very kind and very generous person who always seemed to be so full of life."

The student, who earned the Pope John Paul II Award for her hard work in her local community, was described as having a "beautiful soul" on social media.

"I am so fortunate to call you my best friend. Until we meet again Derv," one friend said.

Another friend posted on Facebook: "My heart is heavy, but also full, so full of love, pride and gratitude that I had the blessing and honour of calling this beautiful soul my friend. Love you always and forever Derv."

Another wrote: "My beautiful best friend, twin sister and now my angel."

Ballymacnab Round Towers GAA club in Co Armagh, which Mr Harbinson manages, posted on Facebook: "The committee, players and members deeply regret the passing of Dearbhla Harbinson, dearly beloved daughter of our senior manager, Lenny.

"We offer our deepest sympathy to him and his wife Roisin and the entire family circle."

Dearbhla is survived by her parents Lenny and Roisin, and siblings Darren, Etaoin and Aoibhinn.

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