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Families traumatised after tragic honeymoon death of Ulsterman

Mystery still surrounds freak accident in Austria: minister

By Claire McNeilly

This is a picture of a 30-year-old Ulster man and his new bride on their wedding day - taken just 10 days before he died in a freak accident on their honeymoon.

Christopher Buick, originally from Randalstown, drowned after a lake accident in the Austrian resort of Zell am See.

Moments before getting into difficulty, Christopher turned and waved to his new wife Pamela Hayes (23), who was watching him swimming from the shore.

Speaking to the Belfast Telegraph last night, the Rev Dr Crawford Ballentine, who will lead the funeral service at Clough Presbyterian Church, said that both families are struggling to deal with their grief.

"The bottom has fallen out of their world temporarily," he said.

"They are shell-shocked and frightened. Until they have the body home they can't begin to prepare for the funeral.

"Pamela is very traumatised. The poor girl is just overwhelmed with grief over the whole thing."

The couple, who married at Clough Presbyterian Church on July 17, had built a new home in Pamela's native Co Antrim village and were intending to move in when they returned from their honeymoon.

Instead, there will now be a funeral service for Christopher, an electrician, in the church where he was married just over a week ago.

Rev Ballentine added that complete mystery still surrounds Christopher's death.

"Nobody knows what happened," he said.

"The whole issue of when he turned round to swim back to the shore is unclear.

"There was no water in his lungs, so they don't think he was drowning and at the minute they haven't ascertained if he had a heart attack."

Rev Elwyn Jones, a family friend who, along with Rev Ballentine, has been asked by the families to speak to the media, said the accident had dealt a severe blow to Christopher's relatives.

"This is a double tragedy," he said.

"Not only has the bride lost a husband, but the family have lost their only son."

Ulster Unionist MLA Robert Coulter, a former minister at Clough Presbyterian Church and a friend of the Hayes family, said the entire community was still in shock.

"It's really awful," he said.

"Pamela went away a bride and she came back a widow in less than a fortnight.

"There are human questions that arise, like why this happened, and we know we will never get any answers."

Mr Buick is survived by his parents Jimmy and Josephine, parents-in-law David and Jacqueline and sisters-in-law Sandra and Rachel.

Belfast Telegraph


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