Belfast Telegraph

Devastated parents of river tragedy son tell of his love for travel and GAA

By Brett Campbell

The heartbroken parents of a popular Co Fermanagh man who died after being pulled from the River Erne on Thursday night have paid tribute to their only son.

Michael Flanagan (28), who lived in Carran West, Garrison, passed away in hospital yesterday morning, hours after being recovered from the water near the Glen Eden Hotel in the nearby village of Belleek.

Last night Gerry and Sadie Flanagan, who described their son as "charming, charismatic and caring from the first day he arrived in our lives", said the history graduate had a life-long love of learning.

"His quest for knowledge began in Little Smarties Playschool and ultimately took him to Queen's University," they told the Belfast Telegraph in a joint statement.

Emergency crews from both Northern Ireland and the Republic - including the NI Air Ambulance - attended the scene shortly after 6pm, before Mr Flanagan was transported to South West Acute Hospital where doctors were unable to save him.

His parents recalled his passion for travelling which saw him "experience new worlds, peoples and cultures" in numerous countries throughout Europe, as well as South Korea, Canada and the USA.

They said the German speaker, who also had a master's degree in international relations from Queen's, relished the opportunity to share knowledge of his native country and language.

"He also had a love of fishing, darts, GAA and soccer and played on many teams including Devenish at St Mary's, Halifax Gaels and Seoul Gaels - he was also PRO of West Ham supporters club in Belfast," his devastated parents said.

"Michael was a man for all ages - he was a warm, caring and loving son and friend to all.

"Ar dheis De go raibh a anam dilis."

The young man's tragic death has stunned people in both villages.

A Belleek resident, who praised Mr Flanagan as "a compassionate, highly intelligent and sensitive" person, said the part of the river he entered was the most treacherous.

"It is known to be very dangerous and has claimed a number of lives over the years," they said.

Councillor and family friend John Coyle described Mr Flanagan as a "much-loved and hugely popular young man" and said the tragedy has sent shock waves throughout the entire community.

"People have been left reeling following this terrible loss of such a young life," he said.

Mr Coyle extended his condolences to Mr Flanagan's grieving parents and the extended family circle.

"I know the family well and my heart just goes out to them, but this is a close-knit community and I know people will rally around them at this extremely difficult time."

Mr Flanagan had only returned home from Canada in October last year and had been a groomsman at his friend's wedding a few weeks ago.

Fermanagh UUP MLA Rosemary Barton also expressed the sense of shock which has rippled throughout the community since the news of the tragedy.

"The death of this young man has shocked the communities of Belleek and Garrison and my sympathy and prayers are with the young man's family at this difficult time," she said.

"Unfortunately it is not the first time that this stretch of the River Erne has taken a life."

Mr Flanagan's funeral Mass will be held at Mary Queen of Peace Church in Garrison at 11am on Monday. He will be laid to rest in the adjoining graveyard following the service.

Belfast Telegraph

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