Belfast Telegraph

Family and school friends in a tearful farewell to drug death teen Caitlin (15)

By Allan Preston

School friends mourning the loss of Portadown teenager Caitlin White said a tearful goodbye at her funeral on Wednesday.

Around 400 people attended the service in Drumalane chapel in Newry for the popular 15- year-old who died in a suspected drug-related incident on Saturday.

Caitlin had become ill in Corcrain Community Woodland in Portadown over the weekend, a spot where she often gathered with her friends.

Emergency services were alerted around 6pm, but she died shortly after being rushed to Craigavon Area Hospital.

Making her way into the church, her mother Teresa White was overcome with the grief of losing her only child and had to be supported by family.

A message she left on flowers read: "To my precious daughter Caitlin, love always, your heartbroken mum."

In a reminder of just how young she was, many of Caitlin's grief-stricken friends present were due to take an exam in school that afternoon following the funeral.

During his homily, Fr Damien Quigley urged Caitlin's pals to celebrate her each year on her birthday, October 16.

Symbols of her life were brought to the front of the church, including a framed picture of a smiling Caitlin.

A number of friends and family fought tears as they gave scripture readings.

"This is not how it's supposed to be," Fr Quigley said.

And addressing Caitlin's parents Teresa and Ian, he said: "You're now walking a road you never expected to take.

"Our beloved Caitlin's journey with us has transformed us, has changed us.

"No one could ever say that they weren't touched by her bubbly character or ability to build bridges, her love of music and art - and yet drawing the picture of the rest of her life has been stilled.

"Her paintbrush is now at rest, the music seems to have fallen silent forever. But Caitlin would want you now to forge ahead and to begin to paint a new vibrant rainbow across the landscape of your lives, to write a new song that will echo into eternal life."

To Caitlin's young friends, he said: "The greatest testament you can give to Caitlin is to celebrate the life you have been gifted, to turn away from anything or anyone that might harm that right, and to celebrate Caitlin for how she lived." Asking them to mark her birthday each year, he added: "On that day in memory of her and in recognition of the gift you have been given, listen to her favourite music, share your stories with each other.

"Even if you want to eat a whole packet of chocolate digestives, I think she'd approve of that," he said to laughter.

Turning once more to Caitlin's parents, he said: "You will never get over the loss of Caitlin, don't let anyone tell you that you will.

"But in time you will get through this, you will find a new normal.

"On Caitlin's make-up bag were the words 'Just say yes'. I think that's what she'd want all of us to say to life."

Speaking after the service, two family members said they wanted to warn other young people against the dangers of drugs.

Detectives investigating the death have now arrested three teenagers and recovered a quantity of suspected Ecstasy following searches.

On Tuesday afternoon a 15-year-old male was arrested and questioned.

He was released on bail yesterday morning pending further enquiries. Two other males, aged 19 and 17, were arrested on Monday evening and were later released on bail.

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