Tragic Larne teenager Gracie Gordon who died in river fall was loyal, sensitive and thoughtful, mourners told
School friends and rescue workers formed a guard of honour at the funeral of a "fiercely loyal, thoughtful and sensitive" Larne teenager.
It's understood 14-year-old Gracie Leigh Gordon died after slipping down a steep bank and falling into the River Inver while out walking with friends at around 9pm on November 26.
A community still devastated by the sudden loss gathered together as hundreds attended Requiem Mass at St MacNissi's Church in Larne on Monday.
Many of the school pupils present comforted each other while members of the PSNI, Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service, RNLI and the Community Rescue Service wore their uniforms as a mark of respect to the teen and her family.
A huge rescue operation had been launched when the alarm to save the St Killian's College pupil was first raised.
Although she was pulled from the fast-flowing river she later died in Antrim Area Hospital.
Police have already ruled out foul play in what has been described as an "unimaginable tragedy".
Please log in or register with belfasttelegraph.co.uk for free access to this article.
Gracie Leigh is survived by her parents Danielle and Alex, sister Charlie Louise, stepbrother Mark and extended family.
Addressing mourners in the same church Gracie Leigh had been baptised in as a child, Fr Francis O'Brien said there had been a "tremendous outpouring of compassion" for the family from the local community and beyond.
"They draw comfort from the lovely comments and texts posted on social media describing Gracie Leigh as a beautiful child, one blessed with a bubbly, vibrant personality," he said. "Sadly, the death of one so young leaves many unanswered questions in its wake. No parent should be expected to bury their child irrespective of age."
Showing courage early in life, Gracie Leigh was diagnosed with a blood disorder at five, requiring constant hospital visits which restricted her ability to play with other children.
"She was so proud of how brave she had become in dealing with her condition and told everybody who would listen to her about how bloodwork and needles were 'no problem'," Fr O'Brien said.
Despite the setback, he said she was still an energetic child who loved gymnastics and regarded herself as "very much the tomboy" before transforming overnight into "Gracie Leigh Glam Girl" who always did her hair and make-up to perfection.
"One of her teachers commented that 'she was so strikingly beautiful that even if you didn't know her, you could not fail to notice her'," said Fr O'Brien.
In recent days he said she had been described as "caring and fiercely loyal, thoughtful and sensitive".
He added: "She had a hug for everyone, possessed a natural sense of fairness and was constantly sticking up for the underdog.
"Her mammy summed up Gracie Leigh perfectly. She was like a Galaxy minstrel, she had a hard outer shell, but was soft in the middle."
Concluding, Fr O'Brien said the popular teenager had made a "remarkable impression" during a life that was cut short too soon, and that she would have urged her many friends and family to support one another. "I believe Gracie Leigh would be asking them right now to give one another big hugs, to look out for one another and ensure that no-one who is sad, be it today, tomorrow, or next week, is left to cope on their own," he said.
A fundraising page set up by friends and family of Gracie Leigh's mother Danielle to pay for funeral costs had raised £9,391 of its £10,000 target by yesterday evening, from 481 donors.
Donations can still be made by visiting the gofundme.com website, and searching 'Support For Gracies Family'.