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Aaron mourners told of the dream trip that 'went so horribly wrong'

By Brendan McDaid

Emotional scenes were played out at the funeral of the tragic Ulster victim of the Thai air disaster.

Aaron Toland from the Hazelbank area of Londonderry was described at his funeral mass as someone who did "ordinary things in an extraordinary, unforgettable way".

Hundreds of mourners lined the road outside St Columba's Church in Long Tower as the funeral cortege arrived yesterday morning, with flower wreaths spelling out 'brother' and 'Aaron' placed alongside the coffin.

Aaron's parents Myles and Ann Marie were joined by their other three sons, Keenan, Conan and Aaron's identical twin brother, Emmett, as they led the procession.

Aaron was one of 89 people killed when a One-Two-Go flight crashed while landing in heavy rain on the Thai holiday island of Phuket on Sunday.

Aaron's friend Christopher Cooley, who was sitting next to him, survived the crash and was last night still recovering in a Thai hospital.

The young man's aunt and godmother, deputy mayor of Derry Patricia Logue, Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness and a representative from the Irish Department for Foreign Affairs were among those praised by Fr Kieran Page for their help over the past week.

Fr Page said: "It does your heart proud in very difficult circumstances to see people pulling together and doing whatever they can for the Toland family.

"Your support and your friendship is indeed a very fitting and lasting tribute to a young man who did the ordinary things in life in an extraordinary way.

"When words fail us, all we have to do is try to do is be there."

Earlier yesterday Fr Page revealed how Aaron had asked his mother to make sure his young niece Megan did not forget him, before heading off on what should have been the trip of a lifetime.

"Thursday week ago they left Derry and everything went so horribly wrong," Fr Page said, adding: "He wanted to see and experience new cultures and meet many more new people.

"Our homes, our lives, our communities will be better places because we have known him.

"Everyone here today has to be challenged to remember Aaron's story and be encouraged by his loving ways; to make the most of what we have while we still have the time to do it."

Fr Page, himself a relative of Aaron's, said he had made his parents very proud when he graduated in July from the University of Ulster.

He added: "He was a young fellow who just loved the style. He was a guy who could easily stand in front of a mirror for hours until he got his hair right, and maybe even at that change his clothes three or four times and asking Ann Marie, 'What do you think of this, ma?' to the point of distraction.

"He also loved a practical joke. Before going to Boston he filled his brother Emmett's shoes with shaving foam and woke Keenan at 4am to remind him to get up for school."

Prayers calling for Christopher Cooley to make a speedy recovery were also said during the service.

Belfast Telegraph


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