John and Lynette Rodgers' bodies flown home from South Africa
Funeral arrangements released for tragic newlyweds
The bodies of the newlyweds from Northern Ireland who died on honeymoon in South Africa have been brought home to Northern Ireland for their funerals.
John Rodgers (28) and his 26-year-old wife Lynette drowned a week ago after getting caught up in a vicious riptide while swimming together at Plettenberg Bay in the Western Cape.
They had been married for just six days when they were found washed up on the picturesque Robberg Beach after the freak accident.
Their heartbroken families, who have spent the past week consoling each other following the unimaginable tragedy, will finally be able to say a proper goodbye to their loved ones early next week.
A joint funeral will take place on Monday November 2 at 11.30am at First Presbyterian Church in Holywood, Co Down, where the couple got married on October 17.
A private committal will take place afterwards.
The organisers of a South African memorial service held yesterday used Lynette's wedding bouquet as the inspiration for a poignant floral tribute.
During a small, intimate ceremony, the flowers were placed on a wooden cross that was set in the sand at the spot where John and Lynette's lifeless bodies were discovered on October 23.
A haunting photo taken there yesterday shows a frothy sea lapping behind the work of art adorned with purple and white blossoms held together by a ribbon fluttering gently in the wind.
Among those in attendance were local government official Ilze Jacobs from the Western Cape Department of Economic Development and Tourism, and British Consulate representative Jackie Barclay, who co-organised the memorial.
Also present were three members of the National Sea Rescue Institute including Brad Thomas, the lifeguard who arrived first at the scene and desperately attempted to save the newlyweds.
Immediately after the short vigil, the flowered-cross was moved to a walkway by the beach to protect it from the sea and create a lasting tribute to the young honeymooners.
Their bodies were officially identified on Wednesday by Mr Barclay in Kynsna, which is another coastal holiday town a few kilometres away from Plettenberg Bay, and the Belfast Telegraph understands they will leave Johannesburg today bound for Northern Ireland.
John, a University of Ulster engineering graduate, originally from Ballygowan, worked for Calvert Office Equipment in Belfast, while Lynette was a physiotherapist at the Ulster Hospital.
Scores of people have turned out to sign books of condolence that opened at Holywood Library and Ards Arts Centre.
Mayor Alan Graham was one of the first to pay his respects and extend his sympathies to both families. "On behalf of councillors and staff of Ards and North Down Borough Council, I offer sincere condolences to the families and friends of John and Lynette," wrote Mr Graham.
"Casting all your care upon Him; for he careth for you." Speaking to the Belfast Telegraph yesterday, DUP MLA Gordon Dunne, a friend of Lynette's family, said her heartbroken mother Eva Reilly continues to show "great dignity and strength of spirit" at this difficult time.
"There has been a genuine outpouring of grief by the local people to this terrible tragedy," he added.
"The thoughts and prayers of the entire community are with both families and it is important to continue to show support for them in the days ahead.
"I would also like to remind people that they are invited to sign the books of condolence in either location."
Earlier this week both families released a joint statement expressing their devastation.