John and Lynette Rodgers' family pay poignant tribute to tragic honeymoon newlyweds
The newlyweds who died on honeymoon in South Africa just six days after getting married were "destined to be together for ever", the distraught groom's family has said.
Post-mortem examinations are expected to be carried out on Lynette and John Rodgers later today, and their families hope that their bodies will be returned to Northern Ireland before the end of the week.
Physiotherapist Lynette (26) and 28-year-old John, who worked for a printing company, died after getting into difficulties while out swimming together at Plettenberg Bay on the Western Cape on Friday.
In a statement released yesterday, Mr Rodgers' heartbroken family said that he had met "the love of his life - his future bride" six years ago.
The statement added that Lynette had "always been considered a member of the family" and "as one of us".
And it said: "They will always be remembered as one, a couple destined to be together for ever."
Lynette's devastated work colleagues at the Ulster Hospital have arranged for a wreath to be placed in the sea in South Africa in tribute to the young couple from Holywood, Co Down, who died not long after checking into their five-star beach hotel.
The close-knit team of physiotherapists expressed their "great sadness" at the loss of their dear friend and colleague and offered their deepest sympathies to the couple's family circle.
"Lynette was one of the most kind and gracious physiotherapists that everyone had the pleasure of working with," a statement said.
"She was cheerful, loved her work and was kind and compassionate to her patients.
"Lynette always made time, even when busy, to help and support colleagues."
The statement added that, outside of work, Lynette - who had worked in the South Eastern Trust for more than two years - "loved life and participated in all the social activities with her colleagues".
It said: "Colleagues and friends in work are deeply affected by the great loss of a dear friend. She will be very sadly missed."
A South African artist has also paid his respects to the tragic newlyweds by making a giant sculpture of a man, a woman and a dolphin out of sand at Robberg beach, where they were found.
Lynette and John are thought to have drowned in heavy surf with strong rip currents after taking a swim shortly after arriving in the resort town.
Police spokesman Captain Malcolm Pojie last night told the Belfast Telegraph that both autopsies would be carried out today or tomorrow.
"Once they have taken place, the pathologist will issue a report as soon as possible," he said
"We are also waiting for assistance with regards to the official identification of the deceased.
"This process will be facilitated by the British Consulate. They will arrange for the repatriation of the bodies to their country of origin."
John, who was originally from Ballygowan, and Lynette held their wedding ceremony at the First Holywood Presbyterian Church in the bride's home town on October 17, followed by a reception at Ballygally Castle Hotel near Larne.
Their families previously released a joint statement saying that the tragedy had left them utterly devastated.
"It has come as a great shock to both the Reilly and Rodgers families to learn of the sudden and tragic events in South Africa, which have taken the lives of Lynette and John," they said.
"Our happiness in sharing their recent wedding has been thoroughly devastated. Both were very dearly loved and brought us great joy."