Emotional scenes as teen who drowned in river is laid to rest
Hundreds queued for the funeral of 15-year-old drowning victim Steven Mitchell, who was laid to rest following an emotional service at his home.
The schoolboy – who drowned after trying to retrieve a ball from the River Roe near Limavady during a family outing on Thursday – was described by a close relative as "full of life" at yesterday's service.
Young people who poured into Ballyclare Cemetery, located two miles from the Mitchell family's Co Antrim home, lined up to drop roses on to the schoolboy's coffin.
Rev Derek Weir, who carried out the service at the teen's home in Doagh, described it as the saddest funeral he had conducted in 50 years as a minister.
"Today was a very sad funeral," Rev Weir said. "A young life taken at that age by any standards, it's very sad.
"When it comes to a family, it's their particular child, and that's an irreparable loss."
He said the young boy's family was shattered by their loss. An inquiry was launched last week into the teenager's death. The Co Antrim family had been on a family outing to Roe Valley Country Park in Thursday's scorching heat.
Relatives told the Belfast Telegraph of how the schoolboy's mother agonisingly watched her son drown as frantic family members battled in vain to save him.
"Steven was a lovely young man who was very much loved. They played a bit of pop music which he had liked at the end of the service," Rev Weir said.
"Looking back over nearly 50 years of funerals, this is one of the saddest funerals I have conducted.
"There were around 30 of Steven's family and close relatives in the home and a couple of hundred outside.
"The funeral service was relayed outside, because I asked a couple of people if they had heard the service and they said they had.
"There were a lot of young people, especially at the cemetery. A lot of them were standing at the entrance to the cemetery with floral tributes or waiting for the cortege to come."
Mourners paid a series of tributes to the schoolboy yesterday on a Facebook page set up in his memory.
"Today I said goodbye to a really good friend of mine steven .. Gonna miss ya soooo much," one said.
"Well Steven what a send off you got today. It was heart breaking watching all your family and your wee friends saying their last goodbye," another added.