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I'll never get over his loss, says heartbroken elder brother of bodyboarder in tragic drowning

By Claire McNeilly

Published 24/04/2015

Tragic bodyboarder Stephen Pentony with his girlfriend Caroline
Tragic bodyboarder Stephen Pentony with his girlfriend Caroline
Tragic bodyboarder Stephen Pentony (right) with his brother Jamie

The heartbroken brother of a man who drowned in a bodyboarding tragedy has said he'll never get over the loss of his youngest sibling.

Jamie Pentony's brother Stephen (25) died after getting into difficulties at the West Strand in Portrush last May.

A friend ran into the sea and tried to save him but the rescue attempt was foiled by strong waves.

Speaking to the Belfast Telegraph, Jamie said that Stephen - the youngest of six children only lived "half a life".

He added that one of the most devastating things for the family was knowing that the Ulster University graduate couldn't swim.

"It still hasn't sunk in that he's gone. He was only 25. He didn't even get half a life," Jamie said.

"He was the youngest. The baby of the family shouldn't have been taken away. That's the hardest thing. It's a life unfulfilled."

He added: "Stephen cheered everyone up. He put everybody else first. He'll be sorely missed."

An in-shore lifeboat recovered Stephen's body from the water between 50 and 75 metres from the shore, face down and unresponsive.

Despite extensive resuscitation efforts, the Northern Ireland Water engineer from Newry never recovered.

Stephen had been enjoying a day out with his girlfriend Caroline Herron, her brother Andrew and his wife Rachel, when tragedy struck.

Father-of-two Jamie said his only comfort was knowing that Rachel had tried to rescue Stephen.

"He was holding on to her board but then a wave came and pushed her off, he said.

"But at least I know that she went into the water after him and tried to save him. She got to him when he was in trouble and she tried to pull my brother out. Just like I would have done if I had been there."

He added: "The hardest part about all of this for us is that we all knew he couldn't swim. I'm not a strong swimmer but if I'd been there I would've went in after him in a heartbeat."

Jamie said it was the seventh anniversary of their 53-year-old mother Diane's death from lung cancer the week before Stephen died, on May 22, 2014.

"It was a cruel time for our family. I hope we never get it as tough as that again," he said.

He also said his brothers Martin (42), Kieran (32) and Anthony (27) have rallied round their father Kieran (60) and 36-year-old sister Leigh Jane, who are still desperately trying to come to terms with Stephen's death.

"Daddy has taken it very hard. He hasn't left the house in a year. Leigh Jane is absolutely heartbroken," Jamie said.

"There is so much we're all going to miss about him. He had a dry sense of humour. He was the one with all the brains and the one that was going the furthest. He had more potential than any of us."

Jamie said his baby brother had told him of his future plans.

"Stephen wanted to marry Caroline and have children. He talked to me about settling down. Caroline was the one for him," he said.

"He had a good job. He had a wee house in Belfast. He was home at the weekends. He was independent.

"He had more potential than any of us and it was just snatched away from him over something stupid.

"It was just an accident that could happen to any family."

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