Belfast Telegraph

I love you, Dad: Final words of Ellen Finnegan emerge as family prepare for Castlewellan fire tragedy girl's funeral

By Lesley Houston

The final words of a teenager killed in a fire in Castlewellan were, "I love you Dad", it has been revealed.

Ellen Finnegan (19), whose life was tragically cut short when a fire swept through her flat on Saturday, will be laid to rest today.

Yesterday, Ellen's father was being comforted by grieving friends and family before her burial at St Malachy's Church.

Her father, Bartley Finnegan, was yesterday overwhelmed by his loss, which follows the death of his wife, Nicola, from cancer, on the same day three years ago.

He said he was unable to talk about his beloved daughter, stating he was simply "too numb to speak" to reporters.

It is understood he has been unable to return to his flat he shared with Ellen, above his butcher's shop at Lower Square in the town, since the blaze took hold at around 4am.

Despite the strenuous efforts of rescue services who attended the fire, Ellen could not be saved.

The "warm and bubbly" raven-haired, sporty teenager, described by her friends as "one of a kind", will be laid to rest following a service at St Malachy's, the same church in which her mother's funeral service was held.

Ahead of the weekend's tragedy, the anniversary of Mrs Finnegan's death had been listed among the local parish's deaths to be remembered by last Sunday's congregation.

Much of Castlewellan is expected to come to a standstill today to mark the "vibrant" girl's passing.

Parish priest Father Sean Rogan yesterday said the abiding memory Mr Finnegan should take solace from was that the very last words he heard from his only child were, "I love you Dad".

He said the grieving man told him that she practically sang out the words of affection for him when she rang him to wish him well on a ski trip he was to embark upon on the day of the fire.

"One of the most poignant moments in this whole saga is that before she went to bed, after having a night out as all young people do, on a Friday night, the last thing she did before she went to bed, was that she rang her dad.

"He told me she was so happy that she virtually sang the following words, if I may put it, as the way he put it.

"She said: 'I want to wish you Dad a very, very happy time when you're skiing, but I want to tell you, I love you Dad; I love you, I love you'.

"If there's any solace at all for Bartley Finnegan at this time, I think that perhaps is one of the things he will always, always appreciate, the last words from the daughter that he loved was 'I love you'."

The priest also paid tribute to the emergency services who tried in vain to save Ellen, who he said the community should also support following what would have been a "very traumatic" experience for them.

Meanwhile, pupils at Assumption Grammar School - where Ellen had been a sixth form student - and a number of her teachers were preparing to attend today's requiem mass before her burial at her family's plot at Aughlisnafin.

Many pupils had already met on Sunday for a specially convened church service at the school's chapel as bewildered girls and teachers struggled to come to terms with the tragedy.

The students have been offered counselling by trained staff from the education authority's critical incident response team.

A-level student Ellen had received offers of three university places for this coming September.

Belfast Telegraph


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