A grieving father who lost his wife and daughter in a tragic accident has said the focus is now on his surviving child.
Clare and Bethany Smyth died in the tragedy near their family farm in Co Antrim last Tuesday.
After their funeral yesterday Ryan Smyth said he was touched by the community’s support.
The husband and father said: “We very much appreciate all your thoughts and prayers at this very difficult time, and the way that so many people, our neighbours and friends and those we don’t even know, paid their respects along the route and outside the church today.”
He added: “Due to the sensitive nature of what has happened to my family, at this time and with regards Hannah’s ongoing hospital stay, our focus will be on her.
“As I am sure you can understand, privacy at this very difficult time would be very much appreciated.”
Mrs Smyth (35) and Bethany died after the quad bike they were travelling on was in collision with a tractor last Tuesday outside their farm on the Whitepark Road.
Five-year-old Hannah, who was also on the quad bike, was seriously injured, but is making “small but significant steps” at Belfast’s Royal Victoria Hospital for Sick Children.
Yesterday there were poignant scenes at the funeral service for the mother and daughter at Ballycastle Presbyterian Church. In line with restrictions, 10 mourners were allowed inside the church, but many others gathered outside for the service led by the Rev John Stanbridge.
Following the processional music Be Thou My Vision, the Rev Stanbridge told the mourners that the Smyth family carried with them into the church every Sunday “joy and happiness, purity and love in abundance”. In his eulogy, Rev Stanbridge said: “We bring you our thanks for Clare and Bethany, for the people they have been, and still are in your presence, for all they have meant to us in so many ways.
“We thank you for the warmth of their love, their combined enthusiasm and zest for life, their courage and cheerfulness, their talents and their abilities and inabilities to challenge and cheer us and teach us to love more dearly.”
The minister delivered his personal thoughts on the Smyth family, saying he had known them for eight years.
Among his fondest recollections, he said, was watching the two girls “dancing with no inhibition at the front of the church”.
“As the Smyth family joined us each week for worship, we as church family marvelled at this family’s love for one another, their love for God and wondered what would surprise us as the girls would come to the front for the children’s address,” Rev Stanbridge added.
“Hannah so loved her wee sister, as did Clare and Ryan, and yet there was something about the way she expressed it and told everyone about Jesus.
“Bethany in fact left me lost for words one Sunday, when I asked her a question, and that was it, I couldn’t get Bethany to stop telling me her very long story, until I introduced the Children’s song.”
He added: “And what about the dancing, the two girls dancing with no inhibition at the front of the church where I stand now and singing along with rest of us at the same time.
“At times I could see Clare’s anxiety when Bethany would come to the front but not for long, they always brought a smile to our faces, sometimes laughter, often stunned us with depth of their knowledge of God word at such a tender age.”
During the service of thanksgiving those attending sang My God Is A Great Big God, Bethany’s favourite worship song, and The Lord’s My Shepherd, Clare’s favourite.
Burial took place in the adjoining graveyard.