Belfast Telegraph

Death of helicopter crash victim Declan Small brought 'devastating shock'

By Claire Cromie

The tragic death of Declan Small, killed when a helicopter travelling to Northern Ireland crashed in England, brought "devastating shock" to his small family and the community of Mayobridge.

Those were the words of Father Charlie Byrne as mourners gathered to pay their respects at Mr Small's funeral in the Co Down village on Sunday afternoon.

Mr Small died on March 13 when the helicopter crashed in a field at Gillingham in Norfolk, also claiming the life of Northern Ireland's richest man and Edward Haughey, Lord Ballyedmond.

The 42-year-old worked as a site foreman for the peer at Norbrook Laboratories and had been carrying out work at his Norfolk estate.

Hundreds of people attended the funeral service in his hometown, including his mother Margaret, brothers Michael, Shane and Anraí, partner Berie, and the widow of Lord Ballyedmond.

A lone piper led the funeral procession as it made its way to St Patrick's Church, where the mass was said by parish priest Father Charlie Byrne.

Paying tribute, Father Byrne said the news of Mr Small’s death brought devastating shock to his family, friends and the local community in Mayobridge.

"Words are woefully inadequate to express the pain and sorrow in our hearts that we have for the family," he said.

"Declan’s life has been cut short. He has died too suddenly, too soon, but it is a tragedy that has allowed us to see the remarkable impact which Declan has made on those in his life.

"This was evident in the number of people young and old who lined the road in a candle-lit guard of honour for his homecoming on Friday night."

He said Mr Small was well known for his "love of family, love of life and steadfast faith".

On leaving school he trained as a joiner with Small Brothers and worked with his uncle Joe before going to work for Lord Ballyedmond at Norbrook and Ballyedmond Castle.

Father Byrne said: "In time he became foreman and his work often took him over seas. Lately he was working in Gillingham near Norfolk.

"Declan was a very skilled craftsman and always took great pride and joy in his work.

"He was highly respected and very well thought of by all who worked with him and often was fondly referred to as Lord Ballyedmond’s right hand man."

Mr Small  loved sport and played Gaelic football with Mayobridge as a teenager. He was a member of Mayobridge Golf Club and a local darts team.

"He was much loved by his many friends and was renowned for his quick wit, always game for a laugh," said Father Byrne.

He added: "Declan’s Miraculous Medal that he wore, the Rosary Beads that he carried with him, and the statue of Saint Joseph the Worker that he placed in the house which he was building, capture elements of a faith instilled in him by his parents, Margaret and Joe.

"It is part of Declan’s life that brings comfort to us now."

Mr Small's remains were interred in the adjoining cemetery.

The funeral of Lord Ballyedmond will take place on Monday.


Further reading:

'His mother's heart is just breaking'... family of helicopter crash foreman left devastated by loss

MLAs pay tribute to Ballyedmond

Lord Ballyedmond death: Experts begin scouring wreckage of Norfolk helicopter crash which killed Norbrook boss

Helicopter crash debris recovered

Lord Ballyedmond death: A complex man who, despite those titles, did not forget humble roots 

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