Belfast Telegraph

Tributes to teen with Northern Ireland links killed in US school massacre

By Brett Campbell

A Co Antrim village is struggling to come to terms with the loss of a "beautiful soul" who was shot dead in a Florida high school on Valentine's Day.

Cara Marie Loughran (14) was one of 17 people - mostly teenagers - who were gunned down in Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School last Wednesday when a former student entered the campus, armed with an assault rifle, and opened fire.

A passionate gymnast, surfer and Irish dancer, Cara grew up in Coral Springs after her father emigrated from Toome almost 20 years ago, although she visited the village regularly to spend time with her grandparents, Paddy and Ellie Loughran.

She had been due to visit again this summer with her dad Damian and mum Denise.

Family priest Fr Patrick McWilliams said the couple, who live in Toalstown Meadows and are aged in their 70s, have been left devastated following their granddaughter's murder.

"They are absolutely heartbroken - it's just terrible," he said. "The family was coming home for the summer, but that's not going to happen now."

The clergyman, who described Cara as a much loved member of the community, said everyone in the village had been left in "complete shock" following the "horrifying" attack.

Cara's 17-year-old brother, Liam, managed to escape unharmed but witnessed much of the horror unfold. He was reunited with his mum hours after the shooting.

A crowd-funding page set up by one of Denise's work colleagues, and which describes Cara as a "wonderful kid with big dreams", has raised almost £6,000.

Cara's teacher at the Drake School of Irish Dance also expressed her shock after learning that she had lost a beloved student in the deadly attack.

"Our hearts are so heavy, as we have lost one of our dancers, Cara Loughran," Christina Deacy wrote on Facebook.

"Cara was a beautiful soul and always had a smile on her face. We are heartbroken as we send our love and support to her family during this horrible time."

Cara's uncle Thomas, a club professional at Carnalea Golf Club in Bangor, is understood to have travelled to Florida to help plan her funeral. Members of the club have extended their condolences to Mr Loughran following the "tragic loss" of his niece.

Brent Bender of Heron Bay Golf Club, where Cara's dad works as a golf course superintendent, said there were no words to soothe Damian's grief.

He added that the loss of life "rings loudly as a call to action for community involvement in seeking solutions to violence in our schools".

Nikolas Cruz (19), who has admitted carrying out the massacre, has been charged with 17 counts of murder.

Belfast Telegraph

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