Belfast Telegraph

Tributes for 'gentle giant' who drowned in reservoir tragedy

By Lesley-Anne McKeown

A teenager who drowned in a Londonderry reservoir has been described as a “gentle giant” who had a zest for life.

Conor McCafferty was pulled from the Creggan reservoir on Thursday.

The 19-year-old had been swimming with friends when he got into difficulty.

The tragic teen’s uncle, Brian Moore, said his family were struggling to come to terms with their loss.

“Everyone knew Conor and those who did not know him knew of him,” said Mr Moore.

“He always said life was for living and that was how Conor lived his short life. He will be sadly missed by his mother, father and brother Barry and extended family and friends.”

Flowers have been left at the gates of Creggan Country Park which is beside the large reservoir where Conor died.

Bereavement counsellors have also been brought in to help his friends, who frantically tried in vain to rescue him.

William Sweeney said: “I was in the water with him. I realised something was wrong when he left my arm.

“I swam back in to help him and he wasn't there. I tried to help him as much as I could.”

Eamon Deane was one of Conor’s closest friends.

“He was my best friend and we did everything together. We got our hair cut together, went up the town together and went to nightclubs together.

“I feel like somebody has ripped my heart out. A part of me died when he died.”

Conor’s death is the second of its kind to have occurred this summer. In May 17-year-old Rhys Jack drowned in a disused quarry in Strabane after trying to swim ashore from a makeshift raft.

Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service district commander Barry McDowell has called on young people not to swim in remote areas.

“There are many dangers and a lot of our waterways here aren't suitable for swimming — there is no help for you and the water is colder,” he said.

“There are also many hidden dangers below the surface — people could get cut, dragged down or the water could be polluted.”

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