Tragic Erin (5) helps four people to live after her own life cut short suddenly
A five-year-old girl who died suddenly has helped give four people the gift of life after her grieving parents made the brave decision to donate her organs.
Erin Bonar from Ballycarry, Co Antrim, who was described as giving everyone she met "joy and laughter", was rushed to hospital in Belfast on March 14 after becoming ill.
The P1 pupil who attended Whitehead Primary School sadly died three days later in the Royal Victoria Hospital for Sick Children.
There had been concerns Erin had contracted a form of meningitis.
The Public Health Agency (PHA) however quickly liaised with the school and later ruled out meningitis as the cause of her death.
In a statement, a PHA spokesman said it had "no record of any suspected or confirmed cases of meningitis in the Whitehead area", adding that the Public Health Agency "would always be notified of any cases of meningitis, in accordance with national guidelines."
The PHA said there was no suggestion that any infection with public health implications had been involved.
The tragic news has led to hundreds of messages of sympathy of support for her parents Susan and Karl on social media.
On a JustGiving site Maria Jones, who was Erin's childminder and friend of the family, said the little girl will be her "hero forever".
In a poignant tribute she wrote: "Erin will be missed terribly by her parents Karl and Susan, big brother Jack and twin brother Rhys.
"Erin's organs were donated to help save other sick children, so even in death, Erin is having a positive impact on our world."
On May 25, Ms Jones will run a 10k race in London in memory of Erin for Unicef UK.
By yesterday more than £1,800 had been raised for the charity.
Wendy McMurtry, who is one of the dozens of people who made a donation, said: "A devastating loss of a beautiful little girl. Thinking of everyone whose lives where lucky enough to be touched by Erin, especially her family circle."
On her Facebook site, Ms Jones also said that she hoped more people would consider being an organ donor and signing up to the register in memory of Erin.
"She is my hero forever," she said. "She has saved another four lives and knowing that is making this horrible time a little bit more bearable. Please join and help Erin's memory live on."
Around 200 people are on the transplant waiting list in Northern Ireland and around 15 people die each year waiting for an organ.
Only 33% of the population in Northern Ireland are on the NHS Organ Donor Register,
Local Alliance councillor Robert Logan described the parents as "brave" for taking the decision to donate their daughter's organs and saving other lives.
"People in Whitehead have just been touched by what has happened and everyone is sending their condolences to the family," he said.
"I've written to them and the family has been very brave in donating the little girl's organs."
- If you would like to pledge support, view Maria Jones' JustGiving page via www.justgiving.com/Maria-Jones3 For more information on becoming an organ donor visit www.organdonationni.info.