Heartache of Northern Ireland gran as Cara (14) is killed in Florida school shooting
The community in Toomebridge was said to be 'stunned' last night after it emerged that one of the victims of the Florida school massacre came from a local family.
The grandmother of Cara Loughran, who was one of 17 people murdered at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parklands, near Miami, still lives in the Co Antrim village.
Cara, a keen Irish dancer, was just 14. Her brother Liam survived the attack.
Former student Nikolas Cruz (19) has admitted the killings.
On Facebook, Lindsay Fontana, Cara's aunt, described sharing the news of the murder with her daughters.
"This morning I had to tell my 8-year-old daughters that their sweet cousin Cara was killed in the shooting at Stoneman Douglas High School yesterday," she wrote.
"We are absolutely gutted. Cara was 14-years-old. She was an excellent student, she loved the beach and she loved our girls."
Cara was also a dancer at the Drake School of Irish Dance in Coral Springs.
Last night, the murdered teenager's grieving grandmother was said by local people to be too shocked to speak to the media.
But a family friend said last night that the entire local community had been affected by the news of what had happened in Florida on St Valentine's Day.
"Our deepest sympathy goes out to Cara's granny and the whole family connection here in Northern Ireland," he said. "Everyone is just stunned by what has happened."
South Antrim MLA Pam Cameron told the Belfast Telegraph that her heart went out to the little girl's family as they tried to cope with the dreadful news.
"It's horrific. Very sad. The grief her family and friends are feeling is almost unimaginable.
"No one should ever have to hear news like that. My heart goes out to Cara's relatives and the people who knew her.
"None of us can adequately grasp the horror of what they must be going through. To lose a child in such circumstances is truly awful," she said.
Last night, the FBI came under intense pressure after it was revealed that it was told last month that the Florida school shooting suspect could be plotting an attack - but agents failed to investigate.
Florida governor Rick Scott called on FBI director Christopher Wray to resign after learning that the bureau failed to investigate a tip-off that the suspect could be planning to mount an attack.
The FBI acknowledged it failed to act on a tip-off to its hotline that Nikolas Cruz had a "desire to kill".
A person close to Cruz called the FBI's public tip-off line on January 5 and provided information about his guns and his erratic behaviour, including his expressed desire to kill people and his disturbing social media posts.
The caller was concerned that Cruz could attack a school.
Yesterday, the agency acknowledged that the tip-off should have been shared with the FBI's Miami office and investigated, but it was not.
FBI director Christopher Wray said the agency was still reviewing what went wrong.
He said he was "committed to getting to the bottom of what happened" as well as assessing the way the FBI responds to information from the public.
Mr Wray said: "We have spoken with victims and families and deeply regret the additional pain this causes all those affected by this horrific tragedy."
The FBI was also notified about a comment on a YouTube video posted by a "Nikolas Cruz" last year. It investigated the comment but did not determine who made it.
Cruz has been charged with killing 17 people at the High School in Parkland, north of Miami, on Wednesday.
Details of the attack have emerged, showing how the assailant moved through the school in just minutes before escaping with the same students he had targeted.
Prior to the attack, he jumped out of an Uber car and walked to building 12 of the school, carrying a black duffel bag and a black backpack. He shot into four rooms on the first floor, going back to spray bullets into two of the rooms a second time, then went upstairs and shot a single victim on the second floor.
He ran to the third floor, where, according to the Broward County Sheriff's Office, three minutes passed before he dropped the rifle and backpack, ran back down the stairs and quickly blended in with panicked, fleeing students.
Cruz excelled in an air-rifle marksmanship programme supported by a grant from the National Rifle Association Foundation - part of a multi-million dollar effort by the pro-gun group to support youth shooting clubs. The foundation gave nearly 2.2 million dollars (£1.57m) to US schools in 2016.
On Thursday night, more than 1,000 people attended a candlelight vigil for the 17 victims. Some of them openly sobbed as the names of the dead were read aloud.
Dressed in the school's red colours, some held flowers while others carried signs asking for action to fight school violence, including gun control.
"Kids don't need guns. No guns under 21," read one sign.
At one point, some in the crowd began shouting: "No more guns! No more guns!"