'Little Kayden's tragic death has ripped heart out of our school,' says principal
The tragic death of Co Antrim five-year-old Kayden Fleck has "ripped out the heart" of his school and community, its principal said.
Yesterday, a book of condolence was opened at Harryville Primary School where, the day before he died, the little boy and his twin Jayden had enjoyed dressing up for 'Superhero Day'.
A steady stream of local people entered the small Ballymena school on the first day of the half-term holiday, to pen tributes to the child and to extend sympathy to his grieving family.
As they did so, schoolteachers broke down in tears as they recalled the P1 pupil and his "gorgeous smile".
Kayden lost his life after falling into the Braid River near the Ecos Centre in Ballymena at around 1pm on Saturday.
It is understood that the twins' dad Darrel raised the alarm after he went looking for the them.
They were thought to have been playing in a park near the Flecks' old family home in Ballykeel 2. The family had moved to a new home in Cullybackey just a week ago.
A major search operation was launched and Kayden was pulled from the water near Tullygarley, more than 45 minutes later. He was immediately airlifted to the Royal Belfast Hospital for Sick Children, but sadly, he passed away in hospital.
Principal of Harryville Primary School, Lesley Meikle, revealed that Kayden's death was the second tragedy involving twins to hit his family.
"His dad Darrel was a twin too, but he lost his brother in a car accident in the late Nineties," she explained. "This is a double tragedy for the family.
"Kayden was a wee fighter - he had spent the first year of his life in hospital due to a heart condition. For him to have made it through only for this to happen is devastating.
"When we heard the news we all broke down in tears. We are gutted and heartbroken.
"This school is a family, and the heart has been ripped out of it and the community."
Kayden's parents Leanne and Darrel Fleck, who have two other children, Daniel (14) and Amelia (3), married exactly a fortnight before the tragedy and Mrs Meikle revealed that the boys had been proud of their role as ring-bearers in the ceremony.
"The boys were very excited, they were gorgeous in their wee grey suits and ties," she said. "They each had a wee pillow to carry as they were ring-bearers. They were typical wee boys, full of mischief and joined at the hip."
Kayden's P1 teacher Sarah McCullough said she could "still see him bouncing up the corridor in his superhero costume".
"He loved playing with sand and Lego and had a habit of walking backwards in the corridor," she said, her eyes filling with tears. "I think he wanted to be a superhero when he grew up.
"So many of the staff have children or grandchildren that age. It feels so wrong to be thinking about the funeral of a young child.
"We have spoken to family members and every church in Ballymena was praying for the family on Sunday."
The close-knit school, which has 166 pupils, is working to support staff and pupils as they come to terms with the loss. An educational psychologist was on hand to offer advice yesterday, and other support workers will also help the school community.
"When the children come back, the staff will be speaking with their own classes," Mrs Meikle explained. "Kayden is being brought home today, and staff from the school will be going to his funeral. Our thoughts go out to his family and to the emergency services, who worked so long and so hard."
Chair of the Board of Governors, Councillor Beth Adger, said she could "feel the agony" of the Fleck family. "Our thoughts and prayers are with them - everyone is numb," she added.