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I don’t know how we’ll ever get over lake death of my fun-loving brother

He was a typical teenage boy who had gone for a day of fun in the summer sunshine. Sadly, Stuart Irwin never came home.

And the 19-year-old who drowned in Lough Erne at the weekend will be desperately missed.

“He was just a fun-loving boy and everybody loved him,” Stuart’s heartbroken elder sister Jill Johnston told the Belfast Telegraph.

Choking back tears while being comforted by grieving |relatives at her family home near Newtownbutler, Mrs Johnston paid a touching tribute to her “baby” brother.

“He was full of energy. He was the baby of the family and everybody spoiled him rotten. He was looked after by everybody,” she said.

“We are very close. I just don’t know how we are ever going to get over this.”

Stuart was with a group of teenagers swimming in a lake close to the picturesque Castle Archdale caravan park, about |10 miles from Enniskillen, on Sunday.

Despite being a capable swimmer Stuart got into difficulty and was swept away by strong undercurrents.

A major rescue operation involving the RNLI, police, fire crews and about a dozen private boats was mounted, but despite their best efforts and the aid given by Stuart’s friends, no one could save the popular, young apprentice mechanic.

His body was recovered by police divers during the early hours of yesterday morning.

Mrs Johnston added: “We couldn’t believe it when we heard. We don’t really know what happened.

“He was out with his friends. They were out swimming and I think he panicked. They tried to keep him up but they couldn’t.”

At the home Stuart shared with his parents devastated friends and family were still stunned by news of their loss, struggling to comprehend the circumstances surrounding his death and how their lives have changed forever.

Stuart was the youngest of three children. Throughout most of yesterday a steady stream of visitors from the close rural community called at the house to pay their respects.

And while the dozens of well-wishers sipped on cups of tea in the kitchen of the pretty bungalow, Stuart’s devastated siblings fondly recalled the “rascal” who so often made them smile.

“He was always up for the craic,” said Mrs Johnston.

“He loved acting the rascal and socialising. He would have done anything to help anybody. He would not say a bad word about anybody.”

Like most country-born teenage boys, Stuart was into music, cars and farming. He worked as a trainee mechanic just a few miles from his home at Rice Motors in nearby Lisnaskea and attended the South Western College one day a week.

The Irwin family are well-known and highly respected in the Co Fermanagh area.

DUP MLA Arlene Foster described Stuart’s death as “a devastating tragedy” and Ulster Unionist leadership candidate Tom Elliott also expressed his sympathies.

Meanwhile, at Castle Archdale yesterday afternoon there was little sign of the tragedy which had unfolded less than 24 hours earlier.

The private boats which had helped in the rescue operation were docked at the jetty while a handful of seagulls ducked into the calm, green-coloured water.

It is an idyllic setting, sheltered by trees and miles from the road. There were no signs warning about strong currents and it seemed like an obvious choice for teenagers looking for fun in the water.

It is understood Stuart’s funeral service will be held in the St Tighernach's Church of Ireland in Clones, Co Monaghan, at 2pm tomorrow.

Belfast Telegraph