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Kilrea pays tribute to three family members killed in car accident

A Co Londonderry town came to a sombre standstill on Friday for the funeral of three members of the same family who died in a two-car crash in Portglenone earlier this week.

On a damp July day the three victims, husband and wife Paul and Verena Creelman and Mrs Creelman's brother Philip (Phil) Hegarty, were remembered as "three good people" as they were laid to rest in Kilrea.

Their silver Volkswagen Passat and a black Audi were involved in the accident on the Lisnahunshin Road in Portglenone at around 10.40am on Monday.

The three relatives, who were all aged in their 50s, were pronounced dead at the scene, while the male driver of the Audi was taken to hospital as a precaution.

On Friday morning hundreds of mourners lined the streets in line with social distancing guidelines as the three coffins were driven through the town to St Mary's Church in Drumagarner for requiem mass.

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The joint funeral of husband and wife Paul and Verena Creelman, and her brother Phil Hegarty took place in Kilrea

The joint funeral of husband and wife Paul and Verena Creelman, and her brother Phil Hegarty took place in Kilrea

The joint funeral of husband and wife Paul and Verena Creelman, and her brother Phil Hegarty took place in Kilrea

The order of service cover featured a smiling photo of the couple and Mr Hegarty alongside the words "never selfish, always kind, these are the memories you leave behind".

In his homily Fr Ciaran Hegarty, curate of Urney and Castlefin and a relative of the deceased, told mourners that the sudden deaths of the three family members had left "a gap that can never be filled".

"Kilrea just won't be the same without catching sight of the three of them walking down the street. Coming home will be a lot less special because Paul, Varena and Phil won't be about," he said.

He paid tribute to Mrs Creelman's "goodwill, warmth and kindness" and said she was someone for whom "a laugh was never far away", adding: "I feel cheated, because in this life, I'll never have that joy again."

The priest said her husband was "a strong big fella and certainly no lightweight" and "an intellect with a searching mind".

"While he had many opinions, he was not an opinionated man and could accept the other side of an argument very rationally," he added.

Fr Hegarty also alluded to Mr Creelman's life-long love of greyhound racing and his regular attendance at both the Lifford and Derry tracks down the years.

"Paul was an expert at getting his greyhounds across the finishing line.

"We are now sending him and Paul, along with Varena, towards the finishing line where we all hope to be when the race that is this life is run," he said.

The congregation was told that Phil Hegarty, or 'Scobie' as he was affectionately known was "part of the furniture" in Kilrea.

Despite not being married or having children of his own, Fr Hegarty said he was "a family man in every sense" and much loved by his nephews and nieces.

Afterwards mourners followed the three coffins from the church to the adjoining graveyard for burial.

Mr and Mrs Creelman are survived by their children Sean, Damien, Mikaela and Tomas, grandchildren Scarlett and Saoirse, siblings and family circle.

Police are still appealing for witnesses or those who may have dash cam footage of the crash to contact police on the non-emergency number 101, quoting reference number 591 27/07/20.

Monday's fatal accident occurred in the same area where two English soldiers, who were both aged 24, died in a road crash with a tractor in 2014.

Lance Corporal David Gwilt, from Bedford, and Rifleman Dale Harris from Barnsley died when their car failed to stop at a junction on the Ballyconnelly Road in Cullybackey.

Belfast Telegraph