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Tears flow as Ballymena fire victim Brooke Reid McMaster's best pal tells funeral special memories

Hundreds of mourners line street to pay last respects to tragic house fire victim


Sad farewell: Friends and family including her mother Martha (left) at the funeral of Brooke Reid McMaster yesterday

Sad farewell: Friends and family including her mother Martha (left) at the funeral of Brooke Reid McMaster yesterday

Brooke Reid McMaster

Brooke Reid McMaster

Sad farewell: Friends and family including her mother Martha (left) at the funeral of Brooke Reid McMaster yesterday

Mourners at the funeral of tragic house fire victim Brooke Reid McMaster listened to a poignant collection of memories from her life-long best friend.

The Dunclug College pupil, who died from smoke inhalation after being trapped in a bedroom of her house in Ballymena, was laid to rest yesterday at Ballee Cemetery after a private service at her grandfather's home.

Several hundred local people lined the rain-sodden streets of Ballykeel 1 and Ballykeel 2 estates to pay their last respects to the popular 12-year-old schoolgirl.

Earlier, family and close friends, who attended the private service at Inchkeith Road, sang songs and said poems in memory of Brooke.

Tears flowed freely as those present listened to a collection of stories from her best friend Jessica McKay.

Reading aloud on young Jessica's behalf, her mother Donna spoke of the two girls' love of Tik Tok, scribbling on the steam of the window of the school bus and all the laughter they shared together at Ballykeel Primary School and Dunclug College, which they both attended.

Tribute balloons were attached to lamp posts, including those located close to Brooke's former home, where the windows have been boarded up following the devastating fire.

Billy McMaster, Brooke's grandad, thanked the community for its support at this difficult time and he said the family was "overwhelmed with the love shown to them".

Pastor Thomas Todd from Ballykeel Pentecostal, who knew Brooke personally from the Campaigners youth group in his church, described her as a fun loving girl who loved music.

"She was a really lovely, good girl," he told the Belfast Telegraph shortly after the service.

"Only now are the family starting to see the enormity of their loss and it is extremely difficult for them."

The pastor told mourners how Brooke used to buy carrots for the local horses and dreamed of becoming a vet.

He also revealed that she was inspired by her teachers at Dunclug and embraced the opportunities of that school.

He added: "She loyally loved and followed her father Geoff in his commitment to the Harryville Homers football team in Ballymena."

Rev Dr Martin McNeely, minister of Ballykeel Presbyterian Church, acknowledged the support of the many hundreds of people who stood listening in the incessant rain.

And he spoke of how Jesus wept at the grave of Lazarus.

"He cried real tears of heart water as we all cry today," Rev McNeely said.

"But Jesus promises to make all things new and to usher in a new Heaven and a new earth without death and without crying.

"Until that time, we are promised the Holy Spirit of comfort and are resolved to walk with father Geoff, mother Martha and the entire Reid and McMaster family circle."

The closing prayer was said by Rev Mark McConnell from St Patrick's Parish Church.

Brooke's remains were removed to the sound of a lament played by local piper Duane Johnston.

The hearse drove past her old primary school in Ballykeel, making a circuit past the scene of last Wednesday's tragedy off Orkney Drive in Ballykeel 2.

The cortege then passed close to the Remembrance Garden in Ballykeel where there is a special floral tribute to Brooke with a message saying: 'Fly high with the angels Brooke our hearts are broken'.

A floral tribute in the hearse simply said "Angel".

Ahead of the funeral, her devastated grandfather took to social media to ask for the strength to bear his grief.

"Please Lord grant me the power to get through today, bless each and everyone of my family and princess Brooke, entire family circle," said Mr McMaster.

"I'm totally brokenhearted but I just want to say a massive thank you to the community and people near and far for your sincere kindness, especially Rev Marty McNeely.

"Ballykeel has been such a fantastic help throughout this hard and difficult time for us all."

He added: "Love you so much and I will deeply miss you my angel Brooke. I know you are with me, I hope I do you proud by the send off I give you."

Mr McMaster told the Belfast Telegraph last week about the schoolgirl's frantic attempts to escape from her upstairs bedroom as horrified and helpless neighbours looked on from the street below.

Investigations are continuing into the cause of the fire but Mr McMaster told how she attempted to escape. "The big bedroom window was double glazed and fitted with a childlock so she couldn't break it, and she was too big to escape through the small window," he said.

Belfast Telegraph