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Families of newlyweds who drowned in South Africa mark solemn festive season without them

By Allan Preston

Published 02/01/2016

John and Lynette Rodgers, the newlyweds who drowned off the coast of South Africa while on honeymoon
John and Lynette Rodgers, the newlyweds who drowned off the coast of South Africa while on honeymoon
Plettenberg Bay, where the accident happened

In what would have been their first Christmas together as a married couple, the absence of John and Lynette Rodgers has been painfully felt by their loved ones over the festive season.

The young couple who lived in Holywood died in a drowning accident while on honeymoon in South Africa in October.

They were caught in a rip-tide swimming at Plettenberg Bay on the Western Cape.

John (28), and Lynette (26), had celebrated their wedding day in Holywood First Presbyterian Church on October 17.

But just over a week later, many of the wedding guests made a sad return to the church for their funeral.

DUP councillor Robert Gibson, a friend of the Reid family, told the Belfast Telegraph the loss was still very much on their minds.

"Going through Christmas and New Year, it's another hurdle to overcome and to learn to live with the loss - they feel it very much," he said.

"I still see [John's] father and mother, who live in Ballygowan, fairly regularly.

"One of the poignant things is that John loved his dog, and he left it with the parents when he went away on honeymoon. So the father would be out walking two dogs now.

"They may also feel in a way that it's a part of John that stays with them at their family home.

"The bottom line is that this is very difficult, but they're doing their best."

He added that as John was known for being such a fit and healthy young man, that the sudden news still "takes a lot of accepting". "Obviously, at this time of year they would have hoped to have celebrated Christmas and New Year's with their only son and his bride," Mr Gibson said. "The question will be what could have been? Would there have been grandchildren? Things like that. All that is lost - it has now become a what-if? [The] bottom line is that this is a massive tragedy, and they're certainly feeling it as much now as when it first happened."

The Reverend Noble McNeeley from Holywood First Presbyterian Church had known Lynette, whose maiden name was Reilly, from a young age through her involvement in the Church. After conducting the young couple's wedding ceremony, he was saddened to oversee their funeral a short time later.

"Christmas has been a difficult time for the two families," he said. "I don't think they would want to say anything at the moment. It has certainly been a big shock for them to come through."

Lynette grew up in Holywood and had worked as a physiotherapist for the NHS.

John was an engineering graduate who worked in an office supplies company in Belfast.

At the time of the funeral, a statement from the Reid and Reilly families read: "The tragic events in South Africa have extinguished their bright flame too soon, but we will never forget our daughter, son, sister, brother and friend.

"We set out to write a tribute, but there are no words to immortalise John and Lynette."

Belfast Telegraph

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