Family tribute to Alan Drennan who died in Ibiza
Memorial is unveiled year after tragedy on holiday
Alan Drennan fought back tears as he paid tribute to his "fun-loving" 21-year-old son at a special memorial event one year on from his death in Ibiza.
Dozens of family and friends of "young Alan", as his father affectionately calls him, gathered at the sun-drenched shore in Jordanstown yesterday where they marked the first anniversary of his passing.
A bench dedicated to the popular Newtownabbey man overlooking Belfast Lough was unveiled at the service.
It sits between two other benches erected for those who have lost a loved one and in memory of Kevin Bell, who died in New York in 2013, and whose name now fronts a family-run charity that helped repatriate Alan's body. Last night many more attended the shorefront, where they released lanterns in tribute to the mechanic who died in controversial circumstances while on holiday with a group of his close friends. Alan snr (56), mum Verona (53) and brothers Lee (24) and 16-year-old Karl were comforted by family members as Rev Nigel Kirkpatrick conducted a short prayer service for Alan.
His devastated father sobbed as he spoke proudly of his son and how the bench will keep his memory alive.
"I'm glad we got to do this today because he made an impact on so many lives. A lot of people have realised that life is too short, that this can happen, and his friends have also changed their ways," he said.
"This (memorial bench) will go on forever."
Two trees will be planted in the area this November in tribute to Alan, who was found dead in his hotel room in Ibiza less than 24 hours after arriving there for a holiday.
"We wanted to help the Kevin Bell Repatriation Trust as they helped us bring young Alan home and I owe everything to that family for what they did," Alan snr added. "Alan used to come to this shore with his friends and have a bit of fun. All the kids got together and have started doing banners and stickers and raising money for the trust. So far they have raised about £13,000.
"This is how well Alan was thought of, he was a super lad and we just miss him so much.
"He made an impact on people's lives and it's nice to think that so many people have a piece of Alan in their heart and I'm so proud of what he did in his 21 years of life."
Many of his friends, including those who were in Ibiza, attended yesterday's events.
Stephen McKee, Stephen Bell, Adam McKee, James McKinney, Connor Kerr, Cameron Snow and Matthew West spoke about the impact of Alan's death on their close-knit group and how nights out "just aren't the same".
Stephen Bell said: "It's a weird feeling today because this day last year we were all sitting on the beach planning on meeting up with everyone else and a couple of hours later we found out what happened, and today we are all together again at these benches.
"It means we can come here in our own time and help each other through it."
He added: "This past year hasn't been the same without him, partying hasn't been the same, nothing really has been the same."