Belfast Telegraph

Shock after sudden death of Co Down schoolgirl Abi Rogers (15)

By Brett Campbell

Tributes have been paid to a "very popular and special" schoolgirl whose sudden death has devastated an entire community.

Abi Rogers (15) passed away on Tuesday at her home just a short walk from St Columba's College in Portaferry, where she went to school.

Staff have opened a book of condolence in memory of the young pupil whose "tragic and untimely" passing has left everyone there "deeply saddened".

"We wish to extend our sincere sympathy to Abi's family and assure them of our prayers, thoughts and support at this time," a post on the school's Facebook page added.

Dozens of people have offered prayers for Abi's heartbroken parents Cathy and Andy and siblings Dylan and Cian.

The school's oratory has also been opened to provide a space for grieving friends and staff to pray and reflect on Abi's life.

It is understood everyone from the college will attend a Requiem Mass at St Patrick's Church this morning before the teenager is laid to rest in the adjoining cemetery.

Canon Gill Withers, who volunteers at Pl@CE, a cross-community youth club which Abi attended, paid tribute to a girl whose "cheeky smile" could light up a room.

"Abi was loved and valued by all our volunteers and everyone who came here," she said.

"She was a very popular and special girl and we just loved to see her face and cheeky smile coming through the door.

"Abi was always happy and her lovely grin made everyone smile."

The Church of Ireland clergywoman said the teenager was a vital member of the club for many years and helped save it from being wound up.

"There was a time when we went through a bit of a lull - a lot of kids had grown up and moved on," she said.

"Abi said: 'Don't worry, I'll get my friends to come'. And she brought a lot of new people in.

"That really saved the club. We just can't take this in, we are numb with grief."

Councillor Joe Boyle described the teenager's passing as "every parent's worst nightmare" but said he knows the community will be "vital source of strength during the difficult days which lie ahead".

"It's never easy to lose a family member, but to lose such a young child is an extremely difficult situation to have to come to terms with," he added.

Mr Boyle also offered his condolences to the entire family on behalf of residents throughout the Ards Peninsula.

Abi's funeral cortege will leave from her parents' home on High Street, Portaferry, at 10.30am.

Belfast Telegraph


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