Family anguish as bodies of Rodney McDowell and Mark McPeake found outside Ballymena flats
The family of one of two men who died suddenly together have spoken of their shock and devastation after finding their bodies lying outside flats in a Ballymena housing estate.
Police are investigating the circumstances surrounding the deaths yesterday morning at Drumtara in the town's Ballee area. The men were aged 43 and 51 and post-mortem examinations are due to be carried out on Tuesday.
They were named locally as father-of-four Rodney McDowell and his friend Mark McPeake.
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A member of Mr McDowell's family told the Belfast Telegraph that both he and Mr McPeake were found unconscious outside the entrance to Mr McDowell's house.
She said: "A relative rang me at about 7.30am this morning and said he had found them.
"One was lying at the front of the house in the porch while another was found on the path outside.
"When I got there it looked as though they were just sleeping, but they were already cold.
"An ambulance had been rung and they were already there with the police, but there was nothing they could do.
"The family are all trying to come to terms with it, everyone is in shock.
"He has four kids and they aren't doing very well at all."
The woman said that most of Mr McDowell's family lived on the estate, while Mr McPeake was from Ballykeel.
She revealed that both men had been battling alcohol addiction, which the McDowell family believe could have played a role in the deaths.
"Rodney and Mark were best friends, they were stuck together at the hip," she said.
"Rodney had an alcohol problem, he didn't work and was on the dole, but we had never known him to be into drugs or anything like that.
"They were both alcoholics and they would have gone out drinking together.
"We had encouraged Rodney to get help, but you couldn't talk to him.
"Even so, his death has come as a shock. He was only 46, which is very young, and Mark was in his 40s too.
"Mark used to have his own flat in Drumtara but he gave it up about a year ago and was staying with Rodney.
"This is a very close-knit community.
"Everyone would look out for each other here and normally you would feel safe.
"The family is just bearing up at the minute, we are waiting for the results of the post-mortem.
"After that, we will probably have a home service and Rodney will be taken to Ballymena Free Presbyterian Church on the Toome Road."
Mr McPeake's family and friends also posted messages of sympathy on social media.
Paying tribute to his "loving brother Mark", Jimmy McPeake wrote: "Family is devastated to receive this news a few hours ago.
"Rest easy bro no more pain."
Another friend wrote: "Memories Rodney and Mark will be forever treasured."
Ballymena DUP councillor Beth Adger added: "It's very sad. My thoughts and prayers are with the families."
On Monday police said: "Post mortem examinations are due to be carried out on Tuesday on the bodies of two men who died in Ballymena at the weekend.
"The men, aged 43 and 51, were found in the Drumtara area early on Sunday morning, 20 August.
"Police enquiries are ongoing and we await the results of the post mortem examinations."