Rodgers honeymoon tragedy: Bride's bouquet inspiration for tribute at newlyweds' memorial service in SA
The South African organisers of a memorial service for the Northern Ireland couple who died on honeymoon have used the late bride's bouquet as inspiration for a floral tribute that was placed close to where their bodies were found.
John Rodgers (28) and his 26-year-old wife Lynette drowned on October 23 after getting caught up in a rip tide while swimming together at Plettenberg Bay in the Western Cape.
During an intimate ceremony, held today at 11am local time, the flowers were put on a cross and set in the sand at Robberg Beach as part of a silent tribute to the tragic newlyweds.
Among those in attendance were joint-organisers Ilize Jacobs, from the Western Cape Department of Economic Development and Tourism, and British Consulate representative Jackie Barclay.
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 Co Down couple.
Immediately after the short vigil, the flowers and cross were moved to a walkway by the beach to protect it from the sea and create a lasting tribute to the tragic honeymooners.
Their heartbroken families were not in attendance.
Back home, scores of people have turned out to sign books of condolence in honour of the couple who died just days after they got married.
They tied the knot at First Presbyterian Church in Holywood on October 17 but died together in the freak accident less than a week later on October 23.
Tributes have poured in since the books were 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 Alderman Graham.
"Casting all your care upon Him; for he careth for you."
A heartfelt message from Patrick Doherty and family read: "Our thoughts and prayers are with Eva (Lynette's mother) and the families."
DUP MLA Peter Weir said: "Very sorry for your tragic loss. You are in my prayers."
Meanwhile, the Toogood family wrote: "So sorry for your loss - may you know God's deepest love and touch at this difficult time."
The books were placed there by the council and anyone wishing to pay tribute to the couple are encouraged to visit either location.
Lynette, an NHS physiotherapist, was from Holywood, and her husband John, who worked for a printing company in Belfast, was originally from Ballygowan.
Memory Booysen, the executive mayor of Bitou, which covers Plettenberg Bay, issued a statement offering his community's condolences to their friends and family in Northern Ireland.
"As the local authority we will assist the family, British Embassy, South African Police Service and all relevant authorities, with any inquiries related to the death, the repatriation and indeed in ensuring dignity in this time of bereavement for the family," he said.
"We applaud the National Sea Rescue Institute and our ward councillor, who responded within four minutes after our station commander received a call.
"Sadly the extensive efforts by the paramedics to resuscitate the couple failed and the couple was declared deceased on the scene."
Post mortems were carried out on the bodies of the tragic newlyweds on Monday and the British Consulate is in the process of carrying out a formal identification so that a report into their deaths can be completed and their bodies returned home as soon as possible.
A joint funeral is expected to take place shortly afterwards in the church where they were married. Earlier this week, both families released a joint statement expressing their devastation.